New sexual health research has revealed a surge in the number of syphilis cases in Darlington, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils responsible for public health across England and Wales, is asking the government for extra funding to deal with the rising demand.

Over two thirds of council areas have seen rates of gonorrhoea and syphilis increase since 2017.

New figures, collected by the Office of Health Disparities and published as a rate per 1,000 residents, on the LGA’s data platform, LG Inform, show that:

  1. Almost all (97 per cent) council areas have seen an increase in the diagnoses rate of gonorrhoea, with 10 local authorities seeing rates triple. The biggest increases were seen in Wigan, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Torbay. 
  2. The highest rate of diagnoses was in the London borough of Lambeth, with 1,221 cases per 100,000 people, with the top ten being made up of inner London boroughs.
  3. 71 per cent of areas have seen increases in cases of syphilis, with the largest increases being seen in Middlesbrough, the Isle of Wight, Darlington and Redcar & Cleveland.

The Northern Echo: Syphilis diagnosis rate per 100,000 population (2022)
Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board said: "These statistics show that local sexual health services are grappling with unprecedented increases in demand. The Government needs to ensure sexual health funding is increased to levels which matches these stark increases.

"Councils have been working hard to encourage more people to access sexual health services and get tested more regularly to help improve detection rates and catch infections early.

"Investment in sexual health services helps to prevent longer term illness and unwanted pregnancies, reducing pressure on our NHS and improving the health of people across our communities."

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Dr Claire Dewsnap, President of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH): "BASHH has repeatedly stressed that, without sufficient investment, sexual health service users will face severe challenges in their ability to access expert, timely care.

"On top of this, the impact of tendering processes has contributed to a lack of stability in the sexual health sector and a depletion of training which further jeopardises the quality and accessibility of services. 

"This data not only demonstrates the deeply concerning trajectory of STI infection growth but also the need for a robust national strategy, backed up by adequate funding. As demand for care increases, without imminent action, we compromise our ability to safeguard the sexual health of our nation."