FUNDING for sexual health services is being cut by more than £100,000 over the next twelve months by Bolton Council, while rates of sexually transmitted infections are on the rise in the area.

The council awarded Bolton NHS Foundation Trust a three-year contract to deliver sexual health services in 2016.

This contract has now been extended but services will be reduced from July 1st as spending has been cut by £110,609.

It comes as the rate of sexually transmitted infections, including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis, have seen an increase over the last two years in Bolton, according to new Public Health England research.

Cases of chlamydia have gone up from 576 detections in 15 to 24-year-olds in 2017 to 679 detections in the same age group in 2018. 

Cases of gonorrhoea have increased from 87 detections in 2016 to 123 detections in 2018, a rise of 36 detections. 

Syphilis cases have also increased, going up by 31 detections from 2016 to 2018. 

Health bosses say the rise is in line with national trends. 

This month, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust announced that, from July 1, clinics would no longer be available at Pikes Lane Health Centre and Farnworth Health Centre.

Services have increased at Royal Bolton Hospital’s clinic from all day on Wednesdays, to Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday morning ‘walk-ins’ alongside afternoon appointment clinics, and Thursday evening appointment clinics.

A spokesman for Bolton Council said: “By consolidating services at a central hub, all levels of treatment can be delivered in a single setting while ensuring the most efficient use of staff time.

“A community offer will remain in place at Lever Chambers on Thursday evenings.”

Sexual health charity, Terrence Higgins Trust, says that cuts to sexual health services disproportionately impact minority groups.

Debbie Laycock, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “These groups – including BAME communities, young people, people living with HIV and gay and bisexual men – are once again disproportionally affected by new STI rates.

“A range of sexual health services must be available, including different options for testing and support, but this must not come at the expense of vital face-to-face services.”

Bolton Council says that it carried out an impact assessment to judge the effect the funding cut would have on the most vulnerable.

A council spokesman said: “An equalities impact assessment was completed before the proposed changes were put forward.

“We remain committed to ensuring the most vulnerable people can access sexual health services in the most appropriate way.”

A spokesman for the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are working with commissioners to make sure we provide a modern service without compromising on quality, and ensuring that sexual health services are available for people who need to access them.”