Increases in rates of syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia are likely to be due to a number of factors. These include increases in both the number of people attending sexual health services and the number of tests for sexually transmitted infections. Other factors include, better detection of infection and behavioural changes such as an increase in partner numbers and condomless anal intercourse, as well as, for some men who have sex with men, ‘chemsex’ and group sex facilitated by geosocial networking applications.
Local authorities will receive £3.1 billion in 2019/20, ring-fenced exclusively for use on public health, including sexual health. We are investing over £16 billion in local authority public health services over the five years of the 2015 Spending Review until 2020/21. It is for individual local authorities to decide their spending priorities based on an assessment of local need, including the need for sexual health services taking account of their statutory duties.
My Rt. hon. Friend the Secretary of State has had numerous discussions with cabinet ministers to discuss a range of topics in advance of the Spending Review. Public health funding for 2020 onwards, including for sexual health services, will be considered carefully in the next Spending Review, in the light of the available evidence.
Local authorities are required by regulations to provide comprehensive open access sexual health services, including provision for sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment and contraception.
The latest statistics show that more people are now accessing sexual health services. Attendances have increased by 7% between 2017 and 2018 (from 3,337,677 to 3,561,548). This continues the trend of increases in attendances seen over the past five years. To help manage the overall increase in demand, local authorities are increasingly commissioning online services to manage lower risk and asymptomatic patients. These services have the potential to reach groups not currently engaged with clinic services.