Monday, 28 October 2013

Barnet Council Members Item - Sexually Transmitted diseases are on the rise in Barnet

I couldn't help notice that a report detailing the state of sexually transmitted diseases was published as a "members item" on the Barnet Council website. I was mildly perturbed to see that sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in Barnet with a 4.3% increase in reported cases in the 2012 over 2011. I was also mildly perturbed to see that the council has decided that it doesn't have to do anything about it. There were 2,857 reported cases in Barnet in the last period, which is low for a London Borough and against the national average. The issue is that cases are on the rise.

Now whilst no one is suggesting that Councils should tell people who they can exchange bodily fluids with, it is pretty clear that the Council does have a responsibility to ensure that its role in ensuring public health is performed to the best of its ability. I have long had concerns that the move towards academies and free schools (especially ones with a religious ethos) may on occasion lead to a misguided view that sexual health is not an educational priority. I am sorry to say that some of the more hard line fundamentalist religious types seem to actually take pleasure in hearing of the rise in STD infection rates, as they see this as punishment for sexual naughtyness. As sexual education does not show up on the league tables and schools don't publish STD infection rates, we can't really tell which schools are doing their job properly.

I take a different view. I believe that schools and councils should make sure that people in there care are as safe as possible. I believe more work should be done and more research into the patterns. I am also concerned that no mention was made of STD rates for vulnerable people in Council care. It is sadly true that sexual abuse of people with learning difficulties by people in positions of trust is more common than we care to admit. Often it is only when an STD is discovered that abuse comes to light.

I therefore think that more work in this area needs to be done and awareness raised. I'd also like to see some guarantees that academies and free schools are taking their responsibilities seriously.

The following text is the information published on the Council Website. I think there is a degree of complacency here. I'd be interested to see what my readers think. I guess we should give a shout out to Councillor Julie Johnson, who yet again shows that she seems to be one of the few Barnet Councillors living in the real world.

(Link to Council website)


The Committee considered a Members’ Item in the name of Councillor Julie Johnson in relation to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). 

At the request of the Chairman, Dr Andrew Howe (Joint Director for Public Health) responded to the questions set out in the Members’ Item as follows:

The national press seems to suggest that there has been an increase in the number of people seeking treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STD's):

1.         Have Barnet's figures increased in the last two / three years and, if so, by how much?

          Whilst Barnet has rates of STD infection below the national average, the rates have been increasing in recent years. The latest data shows that new diagnoses rose 4.3% in 2012 to 2,857 cases up from 2,739 in 2011.

2.         Does Barnet have sufficient resources to deal with any extra demand?

There is open access to Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) services in the UK so residents are able to access services wherever they choose.  The providers that the largest number of Barnet residents access are Barnet Hospital and the Royal Free Hospital.

3.         As education about STD's is part of the national curriculum, can we have some feedback and how this is managed in our schools, including Barnet's looked after children?”

The 1996 Education Act indicates that schools must provide, and make available for inspection, an up-to-date policy describing the content and organisation of Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) outside of national curriculum science. This is a school governors’ responsibility.

Historically SRE provision has been enormously variable.  Curricular resources, training opportunities and ‘clinic in a box’ sexual health advice and contraception services are being made available to Barnet Schools as part of the School Wellbeing Programme funded by Public Health.

For looked after children, sexual health is incorporated in to the Health Assessment which all young people in care receive and advice/guidance is provided to residential care homes. In addition SRE workshops are delivered to the units that accommodate our looked after asylum seekers and a workshop is delivered in partnership with the Leaving Care Team as part of their outreach work.

The Committee thanked the Joint Director for Public Health for the information and RESOLVED that no further action was required in relation to this Members’ Item. 

Report author: Andrew Charlwood
Publication date: 24/10/2013
Date of decision: 03/10/2013
Accompanying Documents:

1 comment:

Jaybird said...

Interesting article here on HIV rates in Barnet. One in 280 people infected, as compared to 1 in 650 national average.

Increased awareness across all ages and proper, detailed sex education in all schools (without the right to withdraw children) are vital to this.