Tempted as we were to name our blog after a certain popular reality TV series, we couldn’t resist taking inspiration from Salt-N-Pepa again (as we have done with our Twitter hashtag #letstalkaboutsex). So enough hinting - we’re proud to say SH:24 has been successful in a partnership bid to deliver an integrated sexual health service in Essex. SH:24 will extend its online sex and reproductive health services beyond London as part of the unique new Essex integrated sexual health service partnership. Provide is bringing together SH:24, local NHS Foundation Trusts, pharmacies, and third sector organisations (including the Terrence Higgins Trust and Brook) to provide (pun completely unintentional) a new approach to delivering sexual health services across the county of Essex.
We’ll be back at service relaunch stage - and enjoying the experience of working with new partners and learning about how SH:24 can benefit different local priorities. Whilst Essex has some of the same pressures and challenges as Lambeth and Southwark, it is also very different. Its larger geographical area (which can be quite rural) will be an exciting transition for SH:24. We know the service can help busy urbanites get tested more rapidly, but equally SH:24 has the potential to make lives far more convenient for people who’d otherwise have to drive long distances or use an infrequent bus service to get to a clinic.
There will also be new audiences to understand and serve, as well as some familiar ones. Young people are still a priority in Essex’s Sexual Health Strategy and we are already thinking about how we can promote the service amongst this user group. Southwark and Lambeth have highest population of gay men in the country and they are a key user group for SH:24; in Essex there are other groups who SH:24 will need to turn to more, such as 35-44 year olds (identified by the Essex Public Health Needs Assessment as needing to get tested more). Our deliberately ‘brand neutral’ approach means that we are able to initiate first contact with many different people without alienating them - from which point we start to learn how we can be more targeted in our engagement and outreach.
Most exciting of all, the partnership SH:24 has been invited to join in Essex presents the opportunity to provide a truly integrated service which will allow people to move between online and offline services seamlessly - making a tangible difference to the user experience.
So watch this space for more news on the partnership and our work in Essex - the service will launch in April but there will be lots of preparation up to then. Get updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.