As we reported in December, UK government funding cuts are leading to a reduction in the quantity and quality of contraceptive services being offered in England. The Family Planning Association has now launched a public petition calling on the government to protect those services. You can find out how to sign the petition and take further action to protect these vital services on our campaign page.
Contraceptive services are normally financed by local councils but a cut of £200 million in central government funding to councils for public health in 2015/16 has led to a reduction in services available. Further finance cuts are scheduled up until 2021.
In December, the Advisory Group on Contraception reported that a third of councils in England had cut, or were considering cutting the number of GP practices able to provide methods such as coils and implants and that a quarter of councils have shut or may close some of their contraceptive services.
When the cuts were announced in 2015, the UK’s Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Faculty of Public Health and the National Health Service (NHS) Confederation labelled them “a false economy”, whose consequences will be poorer public health, a likely increase in sexually-transmitted diseases and an extra burden on the NHS. In September 2016, the UK parliament’s Health Select Committee amplified that message and warned that the cuts threaten to worsen health inequalities.
Particularly at risk are long-acting reversible contraception, such as coils and implants, which are highly effective and have low failure rates. Specially trained practitioners are required to provide these, making the up-front costs for councils relatively high. A survey in 2012 found that 3.2 million women aged between 15 and 44 experienced restrictions in accessing contraception and Sexual and Reproductive Health services. Further cuts will increase the unmet need for these services.
You can support the campaign to defend the provision of these vital services by signing the FPA’s petition, contracting your local council and getting in touch with your MP. Information on how to do those is available on our Public Health Cuts campaign page.