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Sexual health services ‘turning patients away’ due to staffing issues

Sexual health services in England are being forced to turn patients away due to staff shortages.

A report from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which surveyed 640 nurses working within sexual health, found some respondents claiming they had turned patients away as services were stretched due to closures elsewhere.

Just over 55% said that there had been a reduction in the number of nurses working within their clinic, and 50% said they had been unable to recruit to vacant posts.

When trying to fill these vacancies, 62.5% reported that there aren’t enough applicants with the right qualifications or skills.

The numbers follow cuts to wide variety of sexual health services in England. Nursing in Practice revealed last year that half of local councils have reduced the amount they have spent on contraceptive services since 2015/16, after the public health budget was cut by £200m in 2015.

The RCN has stated that it will help to promote existing training resources to help nurses with their training – namely those from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare and British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) – and will work with these organisations to review training provision.

But BASHH are calling on the Government to reverse the cuts to the public health budget, claiming they have come ‘at the worst possible time’.

Dr Olwen Williams, president of BASHH, said: ‘Despite the best efforts of staff to maintain standards, persistent and damaging cuts to the local authority public health budget in recent years have led to clinic closures and a worrying increase in the number of patients being unable to access the care they need.

‘With the recent emergence of multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea and record levels of syphilis, these cuts have come at the worst possible time. It is therefore vital that the Government reverses the cuts and provides services with the support they desperately need.’