On Monday, Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt gave an update to Parliament on the women who were not invited to their final breast screen. Since the announcement in May the numbers of women affected have been confirmed at up to 174,000, significantly fewer than the initial, highly precautionary estimates. Consequently the number of women who may have had their lives shortened over the 9 years since 2009 is now below 75, against the initial upper estimate of 270. This in no way detracts from the severity of this for those involved and our focus remains, as it always has, on ensuring the wellbeing of affected women and their families. Together with NHS England and NHS Digital we have worked at pace to ensure those women who missed their final screening appointment are seen by October at the latest. The independent review will begin its work shortly to understand how this happened and how all those involved ensure it never does again.
This week PHE published a report on new diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections in England in 2017 which shows overall rates of STIs are high but stable. However, there has been a 20% increase in cases of syphilis between 2016 and 2017, continuing a ten year upward trend, with 78% of these diagnoses in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. While the young adult National Chlamydia Screening Programme conducted over 1.3 million chlamydia tests and made over 126,000 chlamydia diagnoses, there was an 8% decline in tests undertaken between 2016 and 2017. The responsibility for sexual health services is shared across PHE, local government and the NHS and there is a refresh of the strategy underway through work by the Department of Health and Social Care and the Sexual Health Commissioning Action Plan that PHE is leading on. In particular we need to better reach those who are at highest risk and further promote the normalisation of condoms as the most effective method of prevention. We have set up a new corporate programme on sexual and reproductive health, are appointing a new senior manager to lead this and secured Professor Kevin Fenton as our Senior Adviser on HIV, Sexual and Reproductive Health, alongside his continuing role as Director of Health and Wellbeing for Southwark Council. Kevin is an international leader and expert on sexual health and we are fortunate to have him.
Health is wealth and improving health outcomes and raising productivity are two sides of the same coin. Despite rapid growth in the West Midlands, very few communities are seeing benefits, with evidence suggesting that 25% of children grow up with experience of poverty. This has led Mayor Andy Street to work with Councils and public service partners across the region to launch a West Midlands Inclusive Growth Unit, working with partners including PHE, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and the Barrow Cadbury Trust among others. This new unit aims to ensure that inclusive growth is directly linking with mainstream West Midlands investment, economic growth and the local industrial strategy. Learn more about this in our blog.
Around seven million people in the UK are affected by cardiovascular disease and CVD prevention is everyone’s business, so it was great to see NICE publish a CVD prevention resource this week, bringing together all of their relevant guidelines and resources. This includes guidance on behaviour change to reduce risk, diagnosing and managing conditions and a spotlight on severe mental illness. You can find it here.
And finally, a new Emergency Services Hub, developed by PHE and the Royal Society for Public Health along with other partners is now available. This will provide the 200,000 staff working for the emergency services in England and their partners in health with access to a wide variety of resources, with the aim of sharing information, best practice and strengthening collaboration to support improvements in health and wellbeing.
With best wishes,
Friday messages from 2012-2017 are available on GOV.UK.