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NHS doctor condemns 'undemocratic' cuts to sexual health services

“Ealing residents have a right to be informed about how arbitrary and undemocratic its council has become," said Dr Paul Fox, a consultant in sexual health at Ealing Hospital

Dr Paul Fox

An NHS doctor has spoken out against impending sexual health cuts which he has branded as "arbitrary, undemocratic" and a "whitewash".

In January, Ealing Council voted to reduce funding of all aspects of sexual health service provision by 50%.

Dr Paul Fox, a consultant in sexual health at Ealing Hospital claims that "staggeringly" this was voted through without any minuted discussion of the impact the cuts would have.

Service users were apparently informed of the decision the following week, having not been given any forewarning of the proposals, before a retrospective consultation period was entered into in March, after "howls of protest" from concerned groups.

Dr Fox says they were given no opportunity to challenge the decision before it was made.

He told getwestlondon: “A howl of protest went up from all the various groups concerned, and the council, realising that it might have acted unlawfully, decided to embark on a retrospective consultation exercise.

"At a last minute stakeholder event on March 10, we were told that the cuts in services were necessary because of government cuts, but this is a complete whitewash.

“Effectively £10.6m was taken from NHS supported services and £9.3m of this is to be spent on other council projects.

“Are the young people of Ealing happy that their access to sexual health services is about to be rationed? Ealing residents have a right to be informed about how arbitrary and undemocratic its council has become."

It is also claimed that the council was not aware of the cross-borough collaborative scheme which funds GUM services across London.

Dr Fox added: “When the council were asked how they planned to fulfil their obligations under this scheme they realised that they could not autonomously reduce GUM services, so this aspect of the cuts has been quietly dropped.

“We have, however, been informed that the council still plans to reduce GUM spending after the General Election. Unfortunately, all other aspects of the cuts are likely to go ahead as it is fairly clear the recent consultation was an exercise in window dressing.

"There was even an online questionnaire which made it sound as though the council were proposing to improve sexual health services whilst completely glossed over the fact that huge cuts had already been voted through by your councillors.

“It is time that we had a real rather than a sham debate about the impact of the council cuts.”

An Ealing Council spokesman said: “Cabinet approved changes to public health funding, subject to appropriate consultation being undertaken before a final decision is made. That consultation has taken place, the findings are now being considered, and there will be a further report to cabinet on the May 19.

“Any changes to services will be assessed to ensure they continue to meet the statutory requirements for how public health money must be spent.

“Our priorities continue to be preventing illness, health promotion, tackling health inequality and the protection of vulnerable residents.”

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