Reforms to sexual health services could cost UK £136.7 billion by 2020

Unprotected Nation

Short-sighted reforms to vital contraception and other sexual health services could lead to a significant increase in the number of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), the consequences from which could saddle the UK with a £136.7 billion NHS and welfare burden by 2020 according to a report prepared by Development Economics that is released today.

Commissioned by the UK’s leading sexual health charities, Brook and FPA (Family Planning Association), ‘Unprotected Nation’ paints a stark picture for the UK if increasing restrictions to contraception and other sexual health services continue unabated.

With clear evidence NHS efficiency savings are already undermining the quality of contraception services available today, through postcode and age based restrictions, limited services offered by PCTs and changes to commissioning structures, the Unprotected Nation report predicts a bleak future resulting from the imminent proliferation of these restrictions across the country as commissioning structures change and budgets are cut.

Report’s key findings:

  • £298.6 million in additional NHS health costs between 2013 and 2020, resulting from an increasing number of unintended pregnancies – including the provision of 22,036 more NHS abortions a year by 2020.
  • A cumulative increase in wider public spending of up to £124.7bn – equivalent to 10% of all welfare spending – by 2020, due to the subsequent increased live birth rate accounting for spending in areas such as social welfare, personalised services, housing and education.
  • The restriction of other sexual health services could also lead to an extra 91,620 STIs per year by 2020, due to increased restrictions, fragmentation of services and reductions in the effectiveness of education and awareness raising programmes. Of these, 76,840 cases are expected to be chlamydia.
  • Increased infection rates alone could place an additional cumulative burden of £314 million on the NHS by 2020 and could see incidences of chlamydia account for 40% of NHS treatment costs for STIs between 2013-2020.

The report makes clear that at a time when the NHS is struggling to make £20 billion of efficiency savings before 2015, restricting contraception and sexual health services is not only a false economy but has the potential to generate major adverse impacts on the nation’s health, lives and families.

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