Sexual health clinics in schools could reduce pregnancy and STI rates
Young people are more likely to use sexual health services if they can access them at schools, according to research by the University of the West of England.
A pilot scheme offering drop-in sexual health clinics in Bristol schools has successfully accessed "hard to reach" groups including boys and vulnerable young people who would not otherwise have received advice.
Young people using the service reacted very positively to it, and said that the approachability and accessibility of staff was key to its success.
Nurses or youth workers provided advice and treatment including contraception, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and advice, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and other health-related issues. The multidisciplinary nature of the team was another reason the success – youth workers were key in preventive work and talking to young men.
Councillor Peter Hammond, Deputy Leader of Bristol City Council and Executive Member for Cohesion and Raising Attainment, said: "The findings of this research show how important it is for young people to have access to advice and help with sexual health issues in a setting that is convenient to them. Parents should be reassured that the confidential service will always include advice that young people should talk to their parents about their situation."
"Such clinics may be a good idea provided they are used as health educators within the existing health and social care curriculum and not a means of contributing to further deterioration in the behaviour of our young people." - V Henry, London N15
"Yes this does sound like a great idea and there are several examples of similar schemes elsewhere. They may be school-based or school-linked and are usually well planned with multidisciplinary input from school nurses, practice nurses and GPs, mental health staff, youth workers and education staff. Invariably, these services are liked by the young people who access them for all kinds of issues besides sexual health – such as acne, mental health or weight problems. The National Healthy Schools Programme provides an ideal framework for setting up these services. The only problem is that of sustainablilty. Unfortunately most schemes are short-lived due to a lack of strategic commitment by PCTs and Local Councils. In their defence, however, PCTs have to comply with government targets for so many things that little time is left to plan strategic health improvement schemes. Top-down targets and short-term quick-fixes are not the answer to reducing health inequalities." - Catherine Gleeson, Practice Nurse, West Yorkshire