FSRH Statement: Number of women accessing SRH services in community clinics falls by 22% since 2014-2015
Date: 11 Dec 2020
Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements
We welcome NHS Digital’s publication of data on Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (SRH) services in England for the year 2019-2020. Over 730,000 women and girls accessed SRH services for contraception in the community in 2019-2020, a drop of 22% since 2014-15, when in-year cuts to the Public Health budget were introduced. The data indicates a decrease in access to vital contraceptive services.
In comparison with the last period (2018-2019), the number of women accessing SRH services for contraception fell by 8.5%.
The number of women using Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC), the most effective methods of contraception, as their main method, decreased from 351,912 in 2018/19 to 335,723 in 2019/20, a fall of 4.5%, and the lowest since 2013/14.
In turn, the number of emergency contraception items provided in 2019/20 was 78,000. This is 14% less than in 2018/19.
In 2019-2020, girls and women in the most deprived areas in England were twice as likely to use community SRH services compared to those living in the least deprived areas. Girls aged 13-15 living in the most deprived areas were three times more likely to be provided emergency contraceptives compared to those in the least deprived areas.
This is data covering contraceptive access in community SRH services only. It does not paint a complete picture of contraceptive provision across England. However, it is indicative of reduced access to essential women’s healthcare in SRH community clinics.
Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:
“Central Government’s cuts to Public Health budgets since 2015 have left local authorities struggling to find the right level of funding for sexual and reproductive healthcare services. Funding and commissioning challenges have led to overstretched and underfunded services that were not sustainably supported to provide care to women and girls either before or during a pandemic.
"The data shows that women and girls appear to be finding it harder to access essential contraceptive services. Cuts to services disproportionally impact the most vulnerable in our society, who are more likely to rely on SRH services to access essential care.
“It was deeply disappointing that the autumn Spending Review lacked detail on Public Health funding for next year, simply stating that the Public Health grant would be ‘maintained’.
“To restore and improve the healthcare system, we urge the Department of Health and Social Care to work with the Treasury to fully fund Public Health services beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Sustained funding for public health services is needed to ensure that women and girls, particularly those in the most deprived areas, can access essential sexual and reproductive healthcare.”
Notes to editors
Around 38% of women in contact with SRH services for contraception were using oral contraception; 46% were using a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) method such as the intrauterine device (IUD), the intrauterine system (IUS), the implant and the injectable. This is down from 39% and up from 44% respectively, compared to the previous period.
In this publication, SRH services include family planning services, community contraception clinics, integrated Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) and SRH services as well as young people’s services e.g. Brook advisory centres. Data from GP settings and pharmacies is only included in data about prescriptions written by GPs and non-medical prescribers such as nurses, pharmacists and others. The NHS Digital data on Sexual and Reproductive Health Services, England – 2019-2020 can be found here.
Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all 152 upper tier local authorities in England last year found that almost half of councils in England have cut contraceptive services since the public health budget cuts in 2015. More than 8 million women of reproductive age are now living in an area where cuts to contraception budgets have taken place. The FOI audit by the Advisory Group on Contraception (AGC) can be found here.
FSRH has been calling for increased investment in contraceptive services and fully-funded Public Health services. In this climate of uncertainty, we support the call by The King’s Fund and the Health Foundation for the Government to commit to restoring £1bn of real-terms per head cuts to the public health grant immediately. Analysis by the two organisations can be found here. FSRH also submitted evidence to the Treasury on the Spending Review 2020, making the case for long-term, sustainable investment in Public Health and Education and Training, which can be read here.
The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the largest UK professional membership organisation working at the heart of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), supporting healthcare professionals to deliver high quality care. It works with its 15,000 members, to shape sexual reproductive health for all. It produces evidence-based clinical guidance, standards, training, qualifications and research into SRH. It also delivers conferences and publishes the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health in partnership with the BMJ. For more information please visit: www.fsrh.org.
For further information and press queries please contact:
FSRH: External Affairs Manager