GP commissioners and councils should in future ensure sexual health services include interventions targeted at cutting alcohol consumption among young people, according to a report published today.

The NHS is currently missing an opportunity to tackle alcohol abuse through its sexual health services, said the joint report from the Royal College of Physicians and British Association for Sexual Health and HIV.

The report – Alcohol and sex: a cocktail for poor sexual health – noted that young people aged 16 to 24 are among the highest consumers of alcohol and also have the highest rate of sexually transmitted infections.  

It highlighted that more than one million young people attend sexual health clinics each year, which it said provided a “unique opportunity” to communicate key messages relating to alcohol consumption to those who are at risk.

Among its key recommendations were that the “new commissioning arrangements should ensure that the service specifications for sexual health in primary care and specialist services include opportunistic alcohol screening and brief interventions for young people”.

The report also said sexual health services should provide information highlighting the link between alcohol consumption and poor sexual health outcomes, and should develop a “robust” care pathway to refer patients on to local alcohol services.

Dr Simon Barton, chair of the RCP’s alcohol and sexual health working party, said: “The links between alcohol use and poor sexual health have been recognised for some time, yet the services available do not reflect this clear association.”

He added: “At a time when the NHS is looking to save £20bn, this is a perfect example of quick-win efficiency that could save money in the long term.”