Published: 06/05/2004, Volume II4, No. 5904 Page 4

Only 50 per cent of sexual health clinics received their share of a£5m cash injection from the Department of Health at the end of last year, according to a recent audit by the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV.

The pass-on rate has dropped dramatically since the distribution of non-recurrent funding provision was transferred to primary care trusts.

The latest cash share was allocated to PCTs in December, but according to the survey over 40 per cent of clinics had received either no funding or a reduced amount via PCTs.

This is in stark contrast to January 2003, when nearly 90 per cent of genito-urinary medicine clinics received the first£5m allocation in full. It was given to them directly by the DoH.

In September 2003, after the DoH decided the money should not be ring-fenced and another chunk was allocated to PCTs, only 65 per cent of clinics had received funding.

The survey findings were submitted to public health minister Melanie Johnson and independent advisory group on sexual health chair Baroness Gould, earlier this week.

The BASHH survey found that in many cases this latest funding had been allocated to clinics very late in the financial year, meaning clinics had been unable to use the money to increase service capacity and reduce waiting times.

It said: 'Even in the minority of cases where the full allocation of funding was received by clinics, the late arrival of part and/or the refusal of trusts to allow carryforward to 2004-05 will have resulted in even less of the total allocation being used to improve local GUM services.'

The survey says that 'unless government concerns about the rising incidence of sexually transmitted infections, and the need to reduce the inequalities in provision, are made more explicit to PCTs, it appears inevitable that many will fail to comply with DoH guidance about targeted funding allocations'.

Terrence Higgins Trust policy officer Lisa Power said: 'This is an example of a central government imperative which has not got through to PCTs.

'We want to see more support for PCT commissioners of sexual health services.'

In November, health secretary John Reid announced extra funding of£15m for GUM services following a damning health select committee report which drew attention to the poor condition and infrastructure of many GUM clinics.

This is to be given to strategic health authorities and will be distributed this year.