Big drop in sexual health calls during pandemic
Fewer people in Northumberland used the area’s sexual health services during the coronavirus pandemic, new figures suggest.
NHS Digital figures show around 3,035 people approached sexual and reproductive health services in Northumberland between April 2020 and March – well down from the 6,590 the year before.
Clinics in the area dealt with 5,835 contacts overall – with some people using the services more than once.
The figures also show clinics in the area provided 115 emergency contraceptives in 2020-21 – down from 340 the year before.
The figures show that just 54% of consultations at clinics in the area were face-to-face, compared to 92% the year before.
Experts say widespread disruption to the NHS and changes in people’s behaviour may have contributed to a significant drop in people contacting sexual health clinics nationally during the pandemic.
The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV said young people living at home during lockdowns may have been particularly reluctant to access services.
A spokesperson said: "It is likely that people may not have felt able to have a private telephone call to discuss their needs with the clinic, may not have wanted to discuss with their parents why they were needing to leave the house and not felt comfortable receiving treatment or postal kits to their home address."
A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said sexual and reproductive health services had remained open throughout the coronavirus pandemic, often adapting by scaling up their online services.
He added: “The Government has required local authorities in England to commission comprehensive, accessible sexual health services.”