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Sexual Health Policy

Volume 559: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2013

4. What the reason is for the time taken to produce the Government’s sexual health policy document; and when he now expects it to be published. (144339)

Will the sexual health policy document contain a strategic plan, effectively resourced by Government, to address and reduce HIV stigma, especially among health care professionals, the police, media, teachers and social services? Perhaps a good starting point could be to draw on the lessons and the success of the Government’s anti-stigma work on mental health.

I certainly support the sentiment behind the hon. Gentleman’s question, and make it clear that I wanted to ensure that the document included the need for everybody to eradicate prejudice in all sexual health work. I was very keen to put that in the document, and I am sure he will join me in welcoming its publication, which will, we hope, be next month.

The under-18 pregnancy rate has fallen by 25% in the past 10 years. Will the Minister confirm that the strategy document will make it clear that it is important to protect specialist, dedicated sexual health services for young people, such as the Brook service at the Talkshop in Trafford in my constituency?

Does my hon. Friend recognise the excellent progress that has been made in vaccination against the human papillomavirus to prevent cervical cancer in young girls? Will she find the time to meet me to discuss the benefits of vaccinating boys against that virus?

Yes, it is always a great pleasure to meet my hon. Friend, and he raises an important issue. I have met a number of other colleagues to talk about their concerns about screening—or rather the lack of screening—for young women under the age of 25 in relation to cervical cancer. That is a concern and we look forward to working on that. I am very happy to meet my hon. Friend.

The Government have been woefully complacent about producing their sexual health strategy. The Minister constantly says that responsibility for decisions lies locally, but will she admit that the Government’s reorganisation has created huge confusion, splitting the commissioning of sexual health services between GPs, councils and the national board, and that the Government’s lack of interest has delayed the sexual health strategy by 21 months? Will she explain the reasons for the delay, and when the strategy finally comes out, will she commit to it addressing seriously the rationing of access to contraceptive services for women aged over 25?

Is it not remarkable to have criticism of a reorganisation from someone who supported a Government who had nine reorganisations in nine years? The sexual health strategy document is very important, which is why we are working hard to ensure that it is absolutely right. I re-wrote a large section to ensure that it will deliver—[Interruption.] I do not know why the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), from a sedentary position, says “Ah.” It is an important document and we want to get it right, and I am sure she will welcome it when it is published. However, let me make it clear: any delay in the document is not preventing rightful commissioning at a local level. I saw that yesterday when I went to Bedford and met the Brook organisation and the Terrence Higgins Trust, which have long been engaged, certainly in that county, in a tendering process from the local authority to continue to deliver excellent services.