Contraceptive services for women set to decline

 Contraceptive services for women are inadequate and set to decline further with the shift to local authority control, according to a new report.

An enquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health in the UK found that PCTs were restricting access to contraception.

Next year, the Group said, local authorities would lack the funds and the guidance they needed to commission effective sexual health services.

The report stated there was “a clear disconnect between national ambition and local delivery” in sexual and reproductive health.

PCTs in areas including Derbyshire, Bristol and parts of London are restricting access to contraceptive services according to age or location.

Many women over 25 have to obtain contraception through GPs rather than through sexual health clinics.

A survey of lead clinicians in sexual and reproductive health found that 60% were seeing their services cut back by PCTs in order to save money.

However, when community sexual health becomes the responsibility of local government in April 2013, there could be a further downturn due to split responsibility and lack of guidance and support.

The Group’s Chair, Baroness Gould of Potternewton, commented: “Access to contraception services and contraception choice is a necessity, not a luxury. Women’s reproductive health needs to be given much greater priority.”

“Unintended pregnancy costs the NHS more than £755m every year,” said sexual health consultant Connie Smith. “For every pound spent on contraception the NHS saves £12.50, so restricting access and choice is a completely false economy.”

The report called on the DH and NHS Commissioning Board to clarify the new commissioning arrangements for sexual health services, including the ‘local enhanced services’ to be provided by GPs.

It also urged NICE to develop a national quality standard on contraception.