Huge rises in syphilis and gonorrhoea in Suffolk as sexual health budget sliced
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Sexual health check-ups should be as routine as going to the dentist, a health professional has said, as new figures show cases of syphilis have increased five-fold in Suffolk.
Latest statistics from Public Health England show the number of people diagnosed with the infection in the county has risen from seven in 2012, to 35 last year.
Over the same period the prevalence of gonorrhoea has jumped by 44%, from 105 to 188.
The upward trend in the two sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is reflected both regionally and nationally.
However, overall STI diagnoses have declined since 2012.
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Eloise Brame, senior practitioner at Terrence Higgins Trust in Suffolk, said: “STI rates nationally and in the East of England remain worryingly high, including syphilis and gonorrhoea, and it’s hard to see a reversal of that trend while sexual health services continue to be cut or closed.
“We need to group together to find solutions to this and we’re looking forward to working with local commissioners to address rising STI rates and improve sexual health. For example, a lot of our work in Suffolk is with young people and we want to see sexual health check-ups normalised in this group, and no different to visiting the dentist or doctor – but there need to be services available to access.”
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Tibbs Pinter, chief executive of Suffolk Young People’s Health Project, also known as 4YP, said the rise in some STIs could be linked to the ability to meet new people over social media.
He added: “People aren’t thinking about sexually transmitted diseases, and have the sense that there is an easily accessible solution anyway.
“It is issues such as this one that our board of trustees take very seriously and are considering the options to provide additional sexual health facilities that would support and prevent the increasing demands on local health services.”
The iCash Suffolk sexual health service is slicing its clinic opening hours and moving more online.
The service is commissioned by Suffolk County Council and run by Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust.
In a joint statement the organisations said they had to scale back the service because of year on year budget cuts by the Government.
They added: “Proposals have been carefully considered based on our understanding of population need relating to sexual health across the county, the requirement to provide clinically safe services and recent service activity data.
“Final decisions regarding the service reconfiguration have been informed by a public engagement exercise and iCaSH staff consultation.
“iCaSH are working in collaboration with Suffolk County Council and with partners across the health and social care system to mitigate as much as possible against any negative impact of the funding reductions.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said online tests allowed people to get checked “at a time that suits them” and were responsible for more than 11,000 diagnoses last year.
She added: “Local authorities are best placed to understand the needs of their communities which is why we are giving them £16 billion to help deliver public health services.”