Health Committee - The Government's Alcohol StrategyWritten evidence from the Family Planning Association (GAS 41)

1. Executive Summary

1.1 FPA is one of the UK’s leading sexual health charities, with over 80 years’ experience of providing the UK public with accurate sexual health information, education and advice services.

1.2 FPA represents a national voice on sexual health, working with and advocating for the public and professionals to ensure that high quality information and services are available for all who need them.

1.3 We know, through research published in 2009 as part of FPA Sexual Health Week, that sometimes people take risks with their sexual health when they have been drinking alcohol.

1.4 Integrated service delivery is vital to address the issue of alcohol and sexual health. We welcome the commissioning of community contraception, sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treating, sexual health prevention and alcohol services as part of Public Health in Local Authorities. However, we have concerns that the commissioning of sexual health services will be fragmented with Clinical Commissioning Groups commissioning abortion services and the National Commissioning Board responsible for GP provision of contraception and HIV treatment. This could make integrated service delivery with alcohol services challenging.

1.5 We believe that Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education has a vital role to play in addressing issues associated with young people and alcohol but also believe that a high quality relationships and sex education programme will address the issue as well.

1.6 High quality and accurate information for the public has a role to play in empowering people to make informed choices. Information for professionals on creating an integrated alcohol and sexual health service is also important.

2. NHS and Public Health Reforms

2.1 FPA campaign One Too Many, part of FPA Sexual Health Week 2009 commissioned a survey into alcohol and sex. It found that regretted sex and alcohol often go hand in hand, as of the 38% of all respondents who said “I have taken part in sexual activity with someone and then regretted it later”, 70% of these said alcohol was a factor (either a great deal or a fair amount) in what happened. And over a quarter of all respondents (28%) had sex with someone they normally wouldn’t find attractive, with 73% of them giving alcohol as a factor.

2.2 Furthermore, the vast majority (83%) agreed with the statement “In general people are less likely to use a condom or other contraception when they have sex if they have been drinking alcohol”.1

2.3 The aim of the One Too Many campaign was to raise public awareness that alcohol can impact on sexual decision-making highlighting the need for more, non-judgemental information around sexual health and alcohol. The campaign also produced a briefing for professionals on integrating alcohol and sexual health consultations. It included tips such as identifying groups at risk and providing support for reducing risk taking.

2.4 We know that alcohol can impact on sexual decision-making and potentially lead to regretted sex. It is essential that commissioners of sexual health services recognise this and it will be essential for members of Local Health and Wellbeing Boards must have all information to be able to commission effective integrated sexual health and alcohol services.

3. Public Health Interventions such as Education and Information

3.1 We believe that relationships and sex education plays a vital role in empowering people to make informed and positive choices about their sexual health and relationships. When the new commissioning structure is in place it will be essential for local Health and Wellbeing Boards to engage with education professionals in their local area to ensure that the education young people are receiving is supporting positive messages around using contraception and where to access sexual health services.

3.2 Integrated services also provide a great opportunity for professionals to talk to people about alcohol and sexual health and the impact alcohol may have on decision-making. These kind of integrated services can also offer information on further support and be able to signpost people to other services.

May 2012

1 The survey was conducted among 1,002 members of Ipsos MORI’s GB online panel. All participants were aged 18–30 and had had sex/taken part in sexual activity and drink/had drunk alcohol. The fieldwork was conducted between 11–18 August 2009.

Prepared 21st July 2012