Between overrun health services and preventative health care only receiving 2.8 per cent of the overall NHS spending, is it any wonder that we have a rise in sexual health-related diseases in the UK?
Last year revealed there are 420,000 new STI cases in the UK. With syphilis on the rise and the average age of those affected between 16-24 years old. And yet, budget cuts to sexual health charities have made things even worse, with 19-25-year-olds getting barred from accessing services that could help them.
Alongside this, last year it was found that, with regards to addiction, 18-24-years-olds had high rates of addiction to alcohol (54 per cent), cannabis (54 per cent) and cocaine (27 per cent). And these were only the findings on addiction in adults. Mentor found that for many young people, drinking and smoking starts as early as 15.
Statistics also show that three quarters of young people experience mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders and self-harm. And yet, 62 per cent of youth mental health services have closed since 2010.
By 2019, public health funding which includes a long list of preventative health services, will have been slashed by £600 million. But the rise in people needing these services has been significant. There was a 13 per cent rise in demand for sexual health services between the years 2013-2017. With more than half of those needing attention being turned away and 54 per cent having an STI.
What this shows is that, in the long run, preventative health is failing as it stands now and more needs to be done to prevent long-term health problems and undue stress upon the already burdened NHS.
When talking to young people at a Q&A Youth Zone at Labour Party Conference, MP Jon Ashworth described the lack of preventative health as ‘stockpiling problems in the long run’ — with which I am inclined to agree.
When you have young people starting to develop addiction, mental health issues and sexual health problems at a young age, but there is nothing on offer for them until they reach adulthood, the damage is done. It costs more to send someone to rehab or for the NHS to prescribe medication for HIV and STIs — not to mention the strain this places on overused counselling services as they become flooded with extreme cases.
All this could be avoided if more money is put into preventative health. The 2.8 per cent given now isn’t helping, rather, services that could offer help are barely able to keep going or no longer exist. Preventative care covers a range of issues such as; sexual health, smoking, obesity. Only by investing in these problems in the early stages, can the cost of treatments be staved off.
When speaking to Lisa from Brook, a sexual health and wellbeing charity in the UK, she said:
‘For young people, services like Brook are constantly coming up against budget cuts […] Instead of seeing under 25s you can only see under 19s. So what’s happening to the people between 19-25? They are going to the all-age services and being turned away because they are so busy. So what we are seeing is, young people are not getting the care they need’.
Overall, this shows a worrying lack of insight by the Government into how preventative health is beneficial. Not just in helping people have access to the services they need, but also in ensuring that in the long run health problems get sorted before they reach the ‘too late’ mark.
Instead of stockpiling illnesses, more Government spending needs to go into the offensive and look at putting money back into preventative measures.