William Eichler 23 June 2022

Monkeypox increasing pressure on over-stretched health services

Monkeypox increasing pressure on over-stretched health services  image
Image: Berkay Ataseven/Shutterstock.com.

Local directors of public health are warning of growing pressures on local sexual health services due to people presenting with potential symptoms of Monkeypox.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has advised people who are concerned they may have symptoms of Monkeypox to ‘contact their local sexual health clinic’.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said the outbreak has highlighted the important health protection work of local authority commissioned sexual health services.

However, they also warned that the Monkeypox outbreak and the increase in the number of people contacting their local sexual health clinic, has exposed the fragility of public health funding.

The LGA and the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) called on the Government to provide additional funding to help local sexual health services provide testing, history taking, as well as support contact tracing operations.

Cllr David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: ‘Local authority commissioned sexual health services have played a vital role at detecting, treating and managing a small but rising number of Monkeypox cases across the country.

‘While it is good to see an increase in people taking their sexual health seriously, a rising demand is pushing some councils' sexual health services to peak capacity levels which are not sustainable in the long term.

‘Record demand for service and the spread of treatment-resistant infection in recent years mean that many services are already struggling to cope, despite valiant efforts from staff.

‘Long term funding for these services will ensure that they are more resilient to meet the challenges ahead.’

Jim McManus, president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, said: ‘Sexual health clinics are on the front line of the current outbreak because cases are being seen mostly in gay and bisexual men. Unfortunately, sexual health services, and the public health budget as a whole, have had to deal with repeated cuts and burdens and this latest strain on their resources is taking its toll.

‘There are currently nearly 800 cases with numbers slowly increasing, partly due to effective contact tracing and partly due to transmission – although this will be an underestimate. It is possible to stop this outbreak and we have a window of opportunity to ensure access to assessment, treatment and vaccination to protect our citizens.

‘However, it is vital that we have a strong and well-funded health protection system – from UKHSA down to locally commissioned services – not only to deal with the current situation, but to ensure that our local infrastructures can swing into action when called upon in the future.’

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