RCN urges reversal of cuts to public health services following increase of STIs in past year

Many cases preventable if nursing staff in sexual and reproductive health are ‘valued’

Many cases preventable if nursing staff in sexual and reproductive health are ‘valued’

Public Health England report an increase of 249% of sexually transmitted infections
in the past decade. Picture: iStock

Rising rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) could be better tackled if nurses in the sector were properly valued, the RCN has urged.

The college was responding to new figures which show the number of gonorrhoea cases diagnosed in England reached its highest level in more than 40 years.

Increase in past decade

A total of 56,259 cases were reported in 2018, up by more than one quarter (26%) from the previous year.

This is the largest number since 1978 and an increase of 249% in the past decade, according to Public Health England (PHE).

Other findings in the PHE’s report into new STI diagnoses in 2018 include:

  • Overall, cases of STIs in England rose to 447,694, up from 424,724 in 2017.
  • Cases of syphilis increased by 5% to 7,541 in the same period, and have more than doubled from 2,847 diagnoses ten years ago.
  • Chlamydia remained the most commonly diagnosed STI, accounting for 218,095 – or almost half – of STI new diagnoses in 2018.

The Local Government Association previously warned that government cuts to councils’ public health budgets had left local authorities struggling to keep up with increased demand for sexual health services.

Fit for purpose

RCN England director Patricia Marquis said: ‘We’ve seen more and more sexual health services provided online in recent years, and while this report seems to show it means more people are able to see help for a suspected STI, we need to make sure these services are robust, fit for purpose and safe.

‘While the number of STI diagnoses has increased, many of these cases are preventable if the cuts to the public health grant for local authorities are reversed, and nursing staff in sexual and reproductive health are valued and given opportunities to develop their specialism.’

Further information

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): annual data tables

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