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Proposed template for sexual health advisers launched

Suggested national guidelines for the training of sexual health advisers were launched yesterday (22 July 2008) by the Unite/Society of Sexual Health Advisers (SSHA) and the Department of Health (DH).

The policy proposals outlined in Sexual Health Advising, Developing the Workforce have been drawn up to give greater protection for the public.

If adopted across the NHS and the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), the guidelines would mean that sexual health advisers would be regulated for the first time.

The raising of the profile of the 500 sexual health advisers in the UK comes at a time of soaring rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs).

The new document, written by a senior sexual health academic, says: "Although recognised as a professional group under Agenda for Change, there has been no nationally recognised programme of preparation for the sexual adviser role, nor registration with one professional body."

The proposals are that those health advisers who are nurses registered by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) can migrate by portfolio to Part Three of the NMC register by December 2009.

Otherwise, nurse health advisers can follow sexual health training via the Specialist Community Public Health Nurse (SCPHN) pathway - and this document is designed to encourage and enable the HEIs to gear their courses accordingly.

For sexual health advisers who come from different backgrounds, such as social work or counselling and psychotherapy, registration with the United Kingdom Voluntary Register for Public Health Practitioners (UKVRPH) is being explored in conjunction with Skills for Health.

Unite/SSHA Professional Liaison Officer, Carol English said: "This template document charts a coherent and comprehensive route by which sexual health advisers can be fully regulated, which, in turn, will boost public confidence in the profession."

Unite the Union/Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association