This site is intended for healthcare professionals only

Syphilis spike and gay men at hepatitis risk in latest STI figures

Written by: | Published:

The RCN said school nurses are vital to stop STIs The RCN said school nurses are vital to stop STIs

Nurses must do their part to help prevent trends in STIs across England, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), but they are being held back by a lack of investment as syphilis rates spike.

Figures published on 6 June from Public Health England (PHE) show there were approximately 420,000 sexually transmitted infections (STIs) reported in England in 2016, down by 4% since 2015.

However, syphilis rates are at the highest since 1949 with a 12% increase in the number of syphilis diagnoses between 2015 and 2016 and a Hepatitis A outbreak continues to affect gay and bisexual men.

Schools nurses were highlighted by the RCN as a frontline to sexual health education and STI prevention, but are now said to be limited by lack of investment.

RCN lead for public health nursing Helen Donovan said: ‘These figures are deeply concerning but not surprising. Decreases in testing risks further transmission of infection, potentially turning individual cases into a much wider public health issue. Amid cuts to public health budgets and sexual health clinics struggling to recruit and retain staff, more needs to be done to raise awareness of sexual health and STIs.

READ MORE: NICE - Free condoms will help stop 'risky sex' spreading STIs

‘Traditionally school nurses have played their part in promoting sexual health but these services have also been affected by cuts in staff numbers. They are now less able to promote the importance of sexual health with young people.

‘If we are to continue the progress made in sexual health there needs to be greater investment in the workforce and support for services to work in a more integrated way. We urge the government to reduce the fragmentation of sexual health services caused by complex commissioning arrangements.’

STI charity the Terrence Higgins Trust has urged the government to do more to tackle the spread of infections.

Trust medical director Dr. Michael Brady said: ‘Today’s figures show unacceptably high rates of STIs. We’re facing huge challenges, such as the continued rise of syphilis and ongoing concerns around drug-resistant gonorrhoea, and we urgently need to address the nation’s poor sexual health and rates of STIs in those most at risk.

READ MORE: New prisoners 'should be tested for blood infections'

‘In this climate of cuts to local authorities’ public health budgets, this is particularly concerning. Now is not the time to be scaling back sexual health services. Cuts to chlamydia testing for example are having a visible impact, with today’s figures showing that there has been a 9% decrease in the number of chlamydia tests taken.

‘It is also now essential that Public Health England, the Department of Health and local authorities ensure improved access to effective STI and HIV testing, treatment and prevention services. Otherwise, we cannot expect to address the ongoing sexual health crisis.’

What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet your views to @IndyNurseMag

This material is protected by MA Healthcare Ltd copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.



Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code

Read a free issue from Practice Nursing

Register to read a free issue from our sister publication, Practice Nursing.

Including articles on asthma, diabetes and more. Read your copy.


Sign up to the newsletter


Independent Nurse is the professional resource for primary care and community nurses, providing clinical articles for practice nurses and prescribers.


Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up to date with the latest nursing news.

Stay Connected

Stay social with Independent Nurse by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook or connecting on LinkedIn.


Need access to some of our older articles? You can view our archive, or alternatively contact us.

Contact Us

MA Healthcare Ltd.
St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road
London, SE24 0PB

Tel: +44 (0)20 7738 5454
Registered in England and Wales No. 01878373

Meet the team


Find out how to contribute to Independent Nurse here.