Sunday, 18 November 2012

Past, present and future: Brook and FPA's Parliamentary Reception

Last week Brook and FPA held their second joint parliamentary reception which in the age of social media we hashtagged as our #xeslords reception. The reception was hosted by Baroness Massey of Darwen, Brook's president, and the Baroness Gould of Potternewton, FPA's president.

It hardly seems plausible that our last joint parliamentary reception with FPA was almost 18 months ago. How quickly time flies and how quickly things can change. And there is no doubt that things are changing fast in the sexual health world: the combination of national strategies on teenage pregnancy and sexual health and HIV ending, the policy approach of localism, public spending cuts and the increasingly loud voice of the minority who are ideologically opposed to gay equality, abortion, contraception and sex and relationships education is creating an uneasy world in which we could be going backwards when it comes to sexual rights and sexual health outcomes.

And this is alarming and wrong.  We cannot afford to go backwards - it is morally, socially and economically wrong. It is of grave concern to both Brook and FPA that we are hearing increasing numbers of reports that services are being reduced and contraceptive choice is being restricted.  We have therefore launched @xescampaign including the website which is a 'trip advisor' type site which enables people to tell us their experiences - both good and bad - of accessing sexual health and contraceptive services to enable us to do our advocacy and campaigning work effectively.

Speaking first about the present, Baroness Massey talked of the enormous effort that has gone into the partnership between Brook and FPA. She thanked the teams for making the partnership work and I was proud of the teams hard work. Baroness Massey also talked of the importance of adopting a holistic approach and learning the lessons from across different issues to find new ways of working in the future. She concluded by reminding us that sexual health is often the Cinderella service and that it cannot continue to be such.

Duncan Selbie, CEO designate of Public Health England spoke next.  He thanked FPA and Brook for the important work they do to promote sexual health, highlighted the challenges of having less money, transitioning to a new system and said he would find it unacceptable for sexual health to remain a Cinderella service. He said he would be accountable in his role for promoting positive sexual health.

Eve Martin, Chair of Brook, up next promised that we would hold him to account because we believe so passionately in positive sexual rights and sexual health. Eve had the honour of presenting the first Brook and FPA Parliamentarian of the Year award to Stella Creasey MP. Stella had led an outstanding campaign to ensure women in Walthamstow could access contraception in the borough. Unfortunately Stella Creasey was lost in the House and could not find us, but when she did arrive she accepted the award on behalf of the 'Women in Walthamstow' who had played such a critical role in the fight for contraception to be available in their borough.

This is a remarkable campaign to need in 2012 so I was pleased when after the presentations Duncan Selbie commented that it was a great campaign but one that should have been unnecessary. All of us, I am sure would agree.

Val Day, Chair of FPA went next and talked of another outstanding contribution to sexual health - this time by that of FPA's President Baroness Gould who had just celebrated her 80th birthday. Val described just some of Baroness Gould contributions including her work as a Pharmacist, the national abortion campaign, the Women's National Commission and most recently as Chair of the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV.

Baroness Gould concluded the speeches with the delightful announcement that she has decided to write her memoirs, of which a part will be about sexual health, tracking the long and windy journey that Baroness Gould has been on in the fight to promote and protect sexual health and HIV policy over the past few decades. She thanked the team at Brook and FPA for making the event happen and Reckitt Benckiser for their support for the event.

We couldn't have had a better group of speakers who in just over 20 minutes highlighted that we need to be vigilant and ever watchful to ensure the hard fought rights that have been won are protected, that the excellent progress is not lost and that we do not go backwards.  The xes: we can't go backwards campaign is much needed.

Throughout the evening we had politicians, sexual health professionals and supporters of Brook and FPA work being photographed to show their support for the XES campaign - if you have a story - good or bad - to tell about your experience of services please visit and follow us @xescampaign

Twitter @simonablake @brookcharity @besexpositive @xescampaign

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