Calls for improved education were made as Hartlepool Borough Council Finance and Policy Committee approved the region being part of a re-procurement of a Tees integrated sexual health service.
The integrated service was last re-commissioned across Teesside for five years in August 2016, with Virgin Care Services Ltd the successful bidder, however they declined an offer for an extension.
Therefore the collaborative commissioners, which are the local authorities in the Tees Valley, along with the area CCG and NHS England, are moving to procure a new service, which would launch from August 2021.
Cllr Jim Lindridge stressed it was important the service was recommissioned, and specifically highlighted how work needs to be done to tackle the high level of under 18 conceptions in Hartlepool.
He said: “I think it’s all about education, education and education. I think we need to be raising awareness in sexual relationships to give a better quality of life to our young people within the town.
“I’d like to see the authority liaise with the remaining partners in the Tees Valley so that we have a collective responsibility, not just in Hartlepool. We have had high figures and I think we all would agree that needs to be improved.
“I think it’s important this is recommissioned and I think we’ve got to work collectively with our partners on this, we can’t just stay singular, we’ve got to share the responsibility.”
From 2016 to 2018 Hartlepool’s rate of under 18 conceptions increased from 34.9 per 1,000 to 38 per 1,000, while at the same time the England rate decreased from 18.8 per 1,000 to 16.7 per 1,000.
This meant Hartlepool’s rate in 2018 was the second-highest in both the region and England.
Council officers noted the collaborative arrangements have worked well over the last five years and are the ‘best way to get the best outcome’ out of sexual health services.
They also noted because of funding it would be ‘almost impossible’ for Hartlepool to commission the service on its own.
Craig Blundred, Hartlepool Council director of public health, said the move will offer the chance to ‘refresh the service’ with a number of lessons learnt during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said: “The ongoing situation with Covid-19 has driven the need to have a look at the model and refresh our ideas as to how we want to commission that and there has been a needs assessment taken and that’s been refreshed.
“There have been some changes to that model, we’ve obviously found new ways of working during the Covid pandemic, they have led to some improvements in things like virtual sessions and that side of things which have been really positive.
“We’ve also found that we need to do some work around narrowing the inequalities associated with poor sexual health outcomes and we’ve developed ways of producing that within the new specification.”