Austerity measures have had an impact on our communities, our health, our education system and our pockets. The nation is in a period of great difficulty and everyone is feeling the pinch.
Last year, we learnt from the Advisory Group on Contraception (AGC) about restrictions and cuts to contraceptive and sexual health services. As the UK’s leading sexual health charities, Brook and FPA commissioned this report on the long-term financial implications of these cuts.
The results have been startling. Policies that cut and restrict contraceptive and sexual health services now will result in greater numbers of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This will cost billions more in health and welfare expenditure in the future.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. A policy focus in the past on teenage pregnancy, chlamydia screening, sexual health and HIV means we know what to do to improve sexual health in the UK. That’s why we’ve launched the XES – We Can’t Go Backwards campaign to fight cuts and restrictions to services.
Ensuring good access for all to contraceptive choices and accurate, evidence-based information on sexual health is essential if we are to improve the nation’s health and reduce the cost of unintended pregnancy and STIs. We mustn’t return to a time when such choices didn’t exist.
Access to the full range of contraceptive methods at a location and time that meets the needs of women is vital to minimise the risks and consequences of unintended pregnancy. But according to a report1 published in April 2012 by the Advisory Group on Contraception (AGC), 3.2 million women aged between 15 and 44 experience restrictions in obtaining sexual health and contraceptive services.
Their research found that the average abortion rate was around 9.7% higher in areas where services were restricted, compared with areas with no restrictions. This provides an indication that restrictions to contraceptive services could result in significantly more unintended pregnancies.
Concerned by these findings, sexual health charities Brook2 and FPA3 launched the XES – We Can’t Go Backwards campaign to demonstrate the importance of high-quality contraceptive and sexual health services.
Unprotected Nation – The Financial and Economic Impacts of Restricted Contraception Services was commissioned as part of the XES campaign, and considers the potential financial consequences of increased restrictions on access to contraceptive and sexual health services in the UK. To understand this position in better detail, three scenarios are evaluated. These are based on current, improved and worsened access to services.
Key findings based on maintaining current access levels of contraceptive and sexual health services show that, between 2013 and 2020, unintended pregnancy and STIs could cost the UK between £84.4 billion and £127 billion (Table S4) comprising:
- £11.4 billion (cumulative costs) of NHS costs as a result of unintended pregnancy and STI costs (Tables S1 and S2)
- between £73 billion and £115.3 billion (cumulative costs) of wider public sector costs (Table S3).
Worsened access could cost
If cuts continue and there is worsened access – with more people being denied access to contraceptive methods and information – the additional cost to the NHS plus wider public sector costs could total between £8.3 billion and £10 billion (Table S4). To put this in context the total NHS budget for 2012-13 was £108.8bn4.