Thursday, August 03, 2006


Millions of pounds intended for improving sexual health services are being diverted to pay off debts, a government advisory group said yesterday. The Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV said that a substantial part of the 300 million pounds set aside had been absorbed by primary care trusts (PCTs).

A survey for the group found that cash set out in the Choosing Health White Paper is reaching frontline services in only 30 of the 191 PCTs questioned. Fifty-one said that they had absorbed their entire allocation into the general budget, and 33 had withheld some or most of the sexual health funding. A further 40 said that funding had not reached contraceptive services.

Baroness Gould of Potternewton, the group's chairman, said that many trusts were experiencing financial difficulties and that sexual health services were suffering problems such as recruitment freezes and clinics closing. Nick Partridge, the chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "It would be a great disappointment if sexual health was sacrificed on the altar of financial balance in the NHS." The Department of Health said that trusts were responsible for sexual health. "We have provided . . . more sexual health funding than ever before."

Three PCTs in Lincolnshire have closed all family planning clinics and a network of teenage advice centres to help to tackle a 13.5 million pound budget deficit. Jim Moss, of East Lincolnshire PCT, one of the trusts that is making the cuts, defended the decision. "Family planning services are available at pharmacies and GP surgeries," he said.


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