Select Committee on Health Written Evidence

33. Evidence submitted by the Family Planning Association (PPI 82)

  Further to the announcement that the Health Select Committee is to conduct an inquiry into patient and public involvement in the NHS and knowing the committee's interest regarding sexual health, I am writing to highlight some issues of concern to fpa about the impact of public involvement on sexual health services.

  fpa welcomes opportunities for the views of patients and members of the public to be taken into account during the development of health services and for people to make decisions about the care they receive. For example, ensuring access to information and the ability to make informed choices are fundamental to enabling women to use contraceptive methods safely and effectively. [20]

  In addition, we know that taking the views and needs of all service users into account can encourage some people to use services more frequently, particularly those in harder to reach groups. There is evidence that services can actively discourage the involvement of boys and young men, through their publicity, their image in the community, the attitudes of staff or even their waiting area. Therefore, taking the views of people likely to use the service into account is a vital way of improving their access. [21]

  However, fpa is concerned that an over-emphasis on the need for there to be strong patient calls in favour of services may lead to some services being neglected. Sexual health services, by their nature, do not lend themselves to concerted local support campaigns. The stigma that is still attached to sexually transmitted infections and to abortion mean that few people, even those who use the services, would be willing to campaign in favour of service provision.

  There is already evidence that funding for sexual health and contraceptive services is being cut due to NHS funding pressures and there is a risk that already stretched trusts could be tempted to focus investment on those services for which there is vocal support. This would be detrimental to all sexual health services, including genitourinary medicine clinics, community contraceptive services and abortion services.

  fpa is keen for people to be involved in decisions about their care and about health services. However, it is important that this does not happen at the expense of the development of vital but low profile services.

  We would be very pleased to come and talk to your committee if you would find that helpful.

Anne Weyman OBE

Chief Executive

Family Planning Association

9 January 2007

20   Kishen, Meera and Belfield, Toni, "Contraception in Crisis", Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, 2006: 32 (4). Back

21   Allen, I, in Coleman J, and Roker, D (eds), Teenage Sexuality; Health, Risk and Education, Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998. Back

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