Millions of pounds earmarked for sexual health services are not reaching the frontline, a Government advisory group warned yesterday.
A substantial proportion of the £300 million for sexual health is being diverted to pay off debts, the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV said.
Many primary care trusts and strategic health authorities have withheld funding to cover deficits, it argued.
A survey for the group found cash set out in the Government's White Paper is reaching front-line services in only 30 out of 191 PCTs questioned.
Fifty-one PCTs said they absorbed their entire allocation into the general budget and 33 withheld some or most of the funding.
Forty of the PCTs said allocated funding had not reached contraceptive services.
When it came to cash for Chlamydia screening, 31 PCTs said funding had been withheld.
Forty PCTs said genito-urinary medicine services were being affected by funding issues, resulting in recruitment freezing and understaffing.
The Government has pledged to make sexual health one of the top six NHS priori-ties in 2006/07.
Recent figures showed a rise in the number of cases of most sexually transmitted infections.
Chlamydia remained the most commonly diagnosed, with 109,832 new cases in 2005 - a five per cent increase.
Baroness Gould, chair of the group, said: "The IAG believes it is essential SHAs and PCTs recognise investment now in front-line sexual health services will save them a great deal in the future.
"Better sexual health services bring benefits for patients as well as delivering cost savings by reducing STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and unwanted pregnancies.
"PCTs and SHAs allocate their budgets, and many PCTs are facing difficult financial circumstances.
Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust said: "Local health services managers are going to have to be extremely innovative if they're going to make the necessary improvements to sexual health services without the help of the Choosing Health (White Paper) money."