Data reveals that nearly all local government districts in England and Wales have observed an increase in the number of cases of gonorrhea, with sexual health facilities experiencing a surge in requests for services.
According to the Local Government Association (LGA), the percentage of council areas with an increased rate of diagnosis for gonorrhea has risen to 97% since 2017. Additionally, 71% of these areas have also experienced a growth in cases of syphilis during the same time frame. These findings were determined through an analysis of data from the office for health disparities.
The most notable rise in gonorrhea cases were observed in Wigan, Dorset, Somerset, Devon, and Torbay. Similarly, for syphilis, there was a significant increase in diagnoses in Middlesbrough, the Isle of Wight, Darlington, and Redcar and Cleveland.
Chlamydia diagnoses have risen in 36% of council areas.
According to the LGA, there has been a rise in the number of reported cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This can be attributed to both an increase in testing as well as budget cuts to sexual health services. The high rates of diagnosis may also indicate a significant number of untested individuals who may be infected.
According to David Fothergill, the head of the LGA’s board for community wellbeing, the data reveals that there has been a significant rise in demand for local sexual health services, which they are struggling to meet.
He stated, “Local authorities have put in considerable effort to promote increased utilization of sexual health resources and frequent testing in order to enhance detection rates and identify infections at an early stage.”
Investing in sexual health services can prevent future illnesses and unintended pregnancies, which reduces strain on our healthcare system and promotes better health in our communities.
In 2022, there was a significant increase in syphilis cases in England, reaching 8,700, the largest number reported since 1948.
In England, the incidence of gonorrhoea has increased from 80.6 cases per 100,000 individuals in 2017 to 146.1 cases per 100,000 individuals in 2022.
In 2022, the UK Health Security Agency reported a 13.4% increase in the number of STI tests taken, reaching a total of 2.2 million.
The examination by LGA also discovered that the sum of money given to local councils for public health had decreased by £880m in the last ten years, limiting their capability to allocate funds towards STI testing and treatment.
The LGA has requested the government to promptly release the next round of public health grants for councils, in order to provide additional funding for these services.
The women and equalities committee in parliament will host a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the increase of sexually transmitted infections among individuals aged 15-24.
Giving evidence will be Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, alongside the children’s commissioner for England, Rachel de Souza, and Dr Claire Dewsnap, the president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (Bashh).
Dewsnap stated that Bashh has emphasized the importance of proper funding in ensuring that individuals utilizing sexual health services are able to receive prompt and knowledgeable care. Additionally, the implementation of tendering processes has resulted in instability within the sexual health sector and a decrease in training opportunities, ultimately hindering the overall quality and accessibility of services.
“The information presented not only highlights the alarming trend of increasing STI infections, but also emphasizes the importance of a strong national strategy and sufficient funding. Failure to take prompt action as demand for treatment rises puts the sexual health of our country at risk.”
The government spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care stated that they have allocated over £3.5 billion to local authorities in England for public health services, including sexual health services. This funding will continue to increase over the next three years.
“We maintain a close collaboration with the UK Health Security Agency, local governments, and NHS England to handle the demands on sexual and reproductive health services and enhance the availability of regular services.”