PUBLIC HEALTH No ring-fencing, but 'rigorous inspection' promised

Published: 17/02/2005, Volume II5, No. 5943 Page 10

Sexual health funding will not be ring-fenced but primary care trusts will be 'rigorously inspected' against outcomes, the public health minister has pledged.

Melanie Johnson told the Commons health select committee that sexual health had risen up the agenda since media scares about sexually transmitted disease and, in particular, a focus on chlamydia.

'The attention that the government is giving this issue is giving commissioners a strong message that this is more important than they may have thought historically, ' she said. 'There will be more fierce forms of monitoring and performance management.' She rejected concerns from MPs that there was no statutory compulsion to provide sexual health services, or that there had not been a national service framework on sexual health.

'Local development partnerships all have to include sections on how PCTs will meet the sexual health needs of the population, ' she said.

'For the first time ever there will be a demand that they deliver on sexual health.' Committee chair David Hinchliffe asked whether there was political will to improve sexual health.

'This is not an issue that MPs get constituents writing to them about, ' he said. 'As politicians we are not under pressure to do something on this. How do you square up the problem that certain areas will not want to put the investment in?' Dr Richard Taylor, independent MP for Wyre Forest, asked whether PCTs would prioritise funding to match national objectives such as on cardiac or cancer care.

'It is a question of priorities, ' said Ms Johnson. 'In the '80s and '90s it was a question of which services would have to be cut, not which should get the most money. It is very different today.

'We want to devolve as much as possible to a local level. Historically sexual health has been a forgotten area. That is changing.'