The Women and Equalities Committee has published the findings of its inquiry into the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections in young people and other risk groups.

The report says the government has ‘failed to heed’ warnings over adequately funding sexual health services amid ‘deeply concerning’ data on STIs in young people. This comes at a time when rates of gonorrhoea in England are at the highest since records began more than 100 years ago, while syphilis rates are at levels not since 1948.

The committee has published wide-ranging recommendations including on the need to radically increase the public health grant, universal access to free postal STI testing and the pressing need for a government strategy on sexual health.

Richard Angell, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Thank you to the Women & Equalities Committee for making it abundantly clear that our sexual health services are over-stretched and under strain, at a time when rates of sexually transmitted infections are sky-high. We've been waiting years for a sexual health strategy to see the light of day and are seeing the consequences of what happens when there is no plan. The next government must prioritise this, including a clear vision, action plan and – crucially – the funding necessary to make that vision a reality.

“The committee’s recommendations include clear solutions that the government can act on now. This includes the committee’s endorsement of our call to ensure free STI test kits are available to order online 365 days a year wherever you are in the country. While making sexual health appointments bookable on NHS apps could quickly improve access.

“We also welcome the committee’s call for the government to review the decision to exclude young men from the national chlamydia screening programme, which sends a message that sexual health is only a women’s problem. This must be underpinned by an above-inflation increase to the public health grant, to relieve the severe pressure on vital sexual health services and ensure everyone can access vital contraception, HIV prevention, testing and treatment.

“Experts are united in the need for a national sexual health strategy, including the Chief Medical Officer, local government organisations, sexual health doctors and charities. This is the second time a select committee has recommended this, with the Health and Social Care Committee calling for a sexual health strategy in 2019.

“Today’s recommendations give us the blueprint for that strategy. We cannot afford to wait another five years for action. With rates of gonorrhoea at the highest we have ever seen, now is the time to get a grip on this.”