PCTs are to cut the budget for gay men’s HIV prevention work in London by 43%, putting those who are among the most affected by the virus at an even greater risk of transmission. Mark Delacour, Director of Operations at the Consortium said, “if these cuts result in even a handful of men becoming infected with HIV, then the cost of treatment would mean that, at a time of reduced public spending, PCTs won’t have saved the taxpayer a single penny”.
The Pan London HIV Prevention Programme is funded by a group of London PCTs, led by Kensington & Chelsea, and commissions a number of voluntary organisations to tackle the spread of HIV among gay men. On Friday 18 March 2011, these organisations were notified that existing budgets would be cut by 43% from the start of the new financial year in April 2011 and were given two working days to accept or reject the offer.
According to the Consortium, having checked with their members, it appears PCTs made this decision without consulting those affected and without carrying out an Equalities Impact Assessment, both of which are legally required. This goes against the openness and transparency that the public expect from public services, and which Teresa May referred to in a report on Pinknews.co.uk.
Speaking about LGBT rights, the Home Secretary and Minister for Equality stated: “So we have designed new specific duties that require transparent information and data about staff and services, so people can see what’s going right and what’s going wrong, where the gaps are, and whether things are moving in the right direction or the wrong direction.
“Armed with that information, the public will be able to hold public service organisations to account. That approach of shining the light of transparency, aiding accountability, raising awareness, and spreading good practice will apply right across the public sector.”
With the exception of Brighton, London has the highest prevalence of HIV amongst gay men in the country and accounts for over 50% of diagnosed people in England. In a letter to Kensington & Chelsea, Mark Delacour, Director of Operations, Consortium, stated: “With London accounting for such a high proportion of HIV infections, withdrawing funding for HIV prevention is clearly not based on the health needs of the local population. We and our members were surprised that the value of the current pan-London contracts that prevent HIV transmission represents less than 1% of the total expenditure of London PCTs for treatment and care for people with HIV. Clearly a decision to cut funding in prevention even further has a vast equalities impact and would need to follow consultation with affected communities and due equalities processes.”
In a letter to the Chief Executive of the Inner North West London Primary Care Trusts, the Consortium calls for PCTs to put the current decision on hold and follow a fair and lawful process to commission future HIV prevention work. It also calls for PCTs to conduct a financial impact assessment of the cuts. In a city where 2,841 people were diagnosed with HIV last year, a 43% cut in HIV prevention budgets will result in a significant financial burden to the state when the lifetime treatment and care costs for one person is estimated to be around £300,000.
Mark added: “With one week to go before the new financial year, it is outrageous that a number of organisations who provide HIV prevention services to gay and bisexual men in the capital have been informed that they must accept a 6 month contract and a 43% cut. Moreover, they have been given two day’s notice on whether or not to accept the cut. This is poor treatment of our members and bad commissioning practice on behalf of Kensington & Chelsea PCT. More importantly it threatens the health of the largest gay and bisexual male community in the country. The communities our members serve are amongst those most affected by HIV and it is absolutely paramount that the needs of gay and bisexual men in regards to HIV prevention remain high on the health agenda in London.”
1) The Consortium of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Voluntary and Community Organisations