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Government have set an ambitious target of halving the under-18 conception rate by 2010 (compared to the 1998 baseline rate). On average, the under-18 conception rate fell 1.6 per cent. each year between 1998 and 2006 (the latest year for which annual data are available), reversing the previous upward trend. This steady decline means that in 2006, the teenage pregnancy rate was at its lowest level since the mid 1980s.
However, this rate of progress needs to be accelerated in order to achieve the 2010 target. A number of local areas are showing that rapid progress is possible, with local reductions of over 30 per cent. since 1998. However, in other areas rates have remained static and in a minority of areas rates have increased. We have issued guidance to local authorities and PCTs based on the lessons learned from the best performing areas and will be challenging those areas where progress has been slow to demonstrate how they have used this guidance to accelerate progress.
In addition, we have provided PCTs with extra funding (£26.8 million in this and the next two financial years) to improve young people’s access to effective contraception and have set out our intention to make Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) statutory, to drive up the quality of sex and relationships education. We will also be strengthening our communications to both young people and parents.
A total of £26.8 million has been allocated this year to strategic health authorities (SHAs) and primary care trusts (PCTs) to improve women’s knowledge of, and access to the full range of contraception, to help reduce the number of teenage pregnancies and abortions.
It is for SHAs and PCTs to determine how to use this funding most effectively to meet the needs of their local populations. However, departmental officials are working with SHAs to provide advice and spread good practice. Priority areas include encouraging innovation and ensuring equitable access to all methods of contraception including long acting reversible methods.
The South West Public Health Observatory are developing a balanced score card for sexual health which will monitor a range of indicators at PCT, SHA and national level. This will be available during 2009 and the first phase will focus on outcomes for young people.