Cut to sexual health spending in Sheffield

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Sheffield’s sexual health services face losing more than £900,000 in funding as the council proposes further spending cuts.

The city’s public health budget, agreed earlier this year by Sheffield Council, included plans to save £600,000 - or 11 per cent - from the annual £6.1 million payment to Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for providing a range of sexual health services.

But the council says it now wants to cut spending by 15 per cent - £927,150 - next year.

A report to council leader Julie Dore said the measure was needed because of the ‘significant financial challenge Sheffield Council is experiencing’.

“We are confident services for those that most need our help and support will be prioritised, but there may be an impact on frontline service delivery,” the report added.

The 2014/15 contract is expected to be approved by Coun Dore next Tuesday.

Sheffield’s sexual health facilities are currently being redesigned to form an integrated service.

The council says more community outreach work is needed, targeting particular districts.

In 2011, the under-18 conception rate varied from 9.3 per 1,000 girls in Ecclesall to 60.8 per 1,000 in the Manor and Castle ward.

Local priorities include expanding sexually transmitted infection screening, increasing the uptake of certain contraceptives, and improving access to early abortions.

The redesigned service will be in place by January 1.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals will continue to run sexual health services for another year - but a ‘procurement exercise’ will take place before the next contract is agreed, starting in April 2015, meaning the council could choose a private firm.

The hospitals trust had shared its plans with the council’s public health team, which provided ‘significant reassurance’, said the report.

“These plans and early activity demonstrate Sheffield Teaching Hospitals’ intention to deliver a more cost-effective, redesigned service.”

Dr Jeremy Wight, Sheffield’s director of public health, previously said cuts were needed as the council used money from its dedicated health grant to pay for services put at risk by a huge reduction in the council’s overall budget.

The authority has also launched a ‘fundamental review’ of public health, to invest in ‘tackling the real causes of ill-health’.