Number of vasectomies plunges amid fears relationships won’t last
The number of vasectomies carried out by NHS hospitals and clinics has dropped by nearly two thirds in a decade, official figures show.
Experts said the trend could reflect social shifts, with greater awareness that relationships might not last, and a reluctance to take steps seen as irreversible.
It could also be a symptom of deepening NHS rationing, they said, or changes in practices with the surgery increasingly offered by GP practices.
The new data from NHS Digital shows 29,344 vasectomies took place in hospitals and sexual health clinics in 2005/6, falling to 10,880 in 2015/16.
Over 2015/16, the number of procedures dropped by two per cent, the statistics show.
Sexual health experts said men were increasingly waiting until they are older to start families, or avoiding the procedure in case relationships failed and they wanted to have more children later in life.
NHS funding for vasectomies has been restricted in some areas, as part of efforts to reduce spending.
A spokeswoman for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPASA) said: “The fall in vasectomies may reflect the fact that there are more GP practices offering men this service which are not captured in the statistics.
“However, some men may be finding it harder to access the procedure – and we know women sometimes feel under pressure to accept a long-acting reversible contraceptive like a coil or an implant when their partner requests a vasectomy.
“This is not acceptable as vasectomy offers couples a way for a man to take the burden of contraception that his partner may have long shouldered.
“But the decline may also reflect social shifts – couples are waiting longer to start and complete their families, and there may also be greater awareness that relationships can fail and that vasectomy is generally an irreversible choice.”
Natika Halil, chief executive of the Family Planning Association (FPA), said: “Being able to choose the right contraceptive method for you is incredibly important, and given the lack of choices currently available for men, this makes access to vasectomies even more vital.
“Some commissioners in England, in areas including Essex, are now no longer offering vasectomies on the NHS, which means men may have to pay up around £500 for a private procedure.
“Unfortunately evidence shows that cuts to services, a fractured commissioning system, a lack of accountability, and a lack of training for healthcare professionals have all led directly to a reduction in access to contraception.”
She said “dramatic” cuts in public health budgets had exacerbated the problem, with £800m reduction in six years.
The figures show that overall, 1.19 million people had contact with sexual reproductive health services in hospitals and clinics in 2015/16, compared with 2.48 million a decade before. However, some of the change may be because increasing numbers of GPs surgeries are offering the service.
Seven per cent of women aged between 13 and 54 had contact with such services – compared with just one per cent of men of the same age, the statistics show
Vasectomies are more than 99 per cent effective, according to the NHS, and the procedure – which involves cutting, blocking or sealing the tubes that carry sperm from a man’s testicles to the penis – takes around 15 minutes. It is usually carried out while the man is under local anaesthetic, and the NHS warns that it can lead to painful swelling of the scrotum as well as “ongoing pain” in the testicles.