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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

NHS Digital report fewer people seeking help from dedicated sexual health clinics

Written by The Press Association

Fewer people are seeking help from dedicated sexual health clinics, new figures show.

Last year, 1.26 million people in England sought help from family planning services, community contraception clinics and some young people's advisory centres - a 4% dip on the previous year.

The figures from NHS Digital show that there is an increasing number of people using long-term contraception, such as the coil - which could account for some of the decrease.

The data also does not take into account sexual health advice sought through family doctors or items purchased over the counter.

But the Family Planning Association (FPA) said the figure could also mean that fewer people were able to access services.

The FPA said it had heard of services shut down, moved or restricted due to funding constraints.

The NHS Digital report on Sexual and Reproductive Health Services (SRHS) in England during 2015/16 states that 38% of women seeking help with contraception through these services were using long-acting and reversible contraceptives.

The report states that over the last 10 years, this figure has been increasing and the proportion of women using user-dependent methods - such as condoms or the pill - has been decreasing.

However, oral contraceptives are still the most common form of contraception item in use, and are the main method for 45% of women contacting such services.

FPA chief executive Natika Halil said: "The stats reveal a 4% decrease in the actual number of people who attended SRHS. Among under 25s, there were 94,461 less contacts.

"It's not possible to say exactly why the number has continued to go down - it could be that people were able to get help elsewhere, including accessing free condoms, or more women were using methods of contraception that don't require regular appointments, but it could also mean that less people were able to access services.

"Over the last year, we have continued to hear examples of services being closed, moved or restricted and we know the pressure local authorities are under to make ends meet in their public health budget.

"We also question how much support young people are getting through sex and relationships education, which is still not statutory, to become confident and competent users of sexual health services."

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