NHS cuts are resulting in reduced or restricted access to contraceptive services that could lead to a significant rise in the number of abortions and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by 2020, leading sexual health charities have warned.
The health service will have to spend hundreds of millions as a consequence, charities Brook and the Family Planning Association (FPA) said. The charities claim there is clear evidence that NHS efficiency savings are undermining the quality of contraceptive services available.
Some healthcare commissioners are restricting access to contraceptive services on the basis of age or place of residence and in some areas the services offered are limited, the charities said.
In a report, called Unprotected Nation, the charities warn that if restrictions continue there will be an extra 22,000 abortions in the UK by 2020.
There could also be an additional 91,000 STIs each year over the coming seven years, experts predict. Treating infections and caring for women with unintended pregnancies could cost the health service more than £600m by 2020, the report says.
The charities believe that while the health service works to make £20bn in efficiency savings by 2020, making cuts in sexual health services is false economy.
“Unplanned pregnancy and STIs have obvious costs to people’s health and well-being, but the heavy financial costs to the NHS and welfare state are also real and serious,” said Dr Audrey Simpson, acting CEO chief executive of the FPA.,
“The wheels of this crisis are firmly in motion. Investment in sexual health saves money, but if national and local government ignore the warnings and continue stripping away services, advice and information, the bleak predictions in this report will come true.”
Brook’s chief executive Simon Blake added: “The national sexual health and teenage pregnancy strategies have ended and the NHS is under intense pressure to make savings.
“However, this report makes very clear just how short-sighted restrictions to contraception services are – particularly for young people who have to navigate this void alongside a black hole in sex and relationships education programmes.”