Teen births remain high

CALLS have been made for health officials to go into schools in a bid to cut the number of teen pregnancies.

The number of under-18 pregnancies in Hartlepool has fallen in recent years, but it remains higher than the national and regional average.

It was discussed by Hartlepool Borough Council’s health scrutiny forum as part of an ongoing inquiry into sexual health.

Figures reveal under-18 conception rates have fluctuated between 1998 and 2010, but Hartlepool still has the second highest rate in Teesside.

In 2010 there were 100 under-18 conceptions, with a 39 per cent termination rate.

That is the lowest it has been since 1998 with the figure reaching a high of 149 in 2005, and figures for 2011 are expected to drop further.

But councillors quizzed health chiefs about what the plan was to further reduce the high levels.

Conservative group leader Ray Wells said: “I think that schools are key, how often do you go in?”

Deborah Gibbin, health improvement practitioner with Hartlepool Council and NHS Hartlepool, said: “We used to have a team that went in regularly but we are now working with teachers more and more who deliver the sexual education programme.”

Teachers can call on support for sessions around sexually transmitted disease and condom distribution.

But Coun Wells said: “It concerns me greatly that we are relying on teachers to deliver the message.

“I’m not saying they won’t be effective but it is sometimes better for somebody from outside to come in and deliver the message, especially as it is less embarrassing for the teacher.”

Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher said it was important not to make assumptions and to assess the current programme before asking for health officials to go into schools.

Officials from NHS Tees and NHS Hartlepool said prevention and education is key to supporting people to make healthy and safe choices around sexual health.

Figures also revealed the number of gonorrhoea cases has risen from 11 in 2009 to 25 in 2011 and cases of chlamydia have risen from 158 in 2009, to 167 in 2010 and 241 in 2011.

Meanwhile, the number of syphilis cases has dropped from two in 2009 to one in 2011, while genital herpes and genital wart figures have also dropped.

For more information about the investigation contact scrutiny support officer Laura Stones on (01429) 523087 or email laura.stones@hartlepool.gov.uk