Response to Evening Standard article ('600 people a week turned away from oversubscribed sexual health clinics at one London NHS Trust', 28 January 2018) from Gillian Holdsworth, Managing Director of SH:24:
London urgently needs an online sexual health service that supports and strengthens capacity for the more complex cases to remain in its clinical settings, not one that weakens it through extended delays.
Clinic closures and the surge in turn-aways from sexual health clinics across the capital are a growing concern for us at SH:24. SH:24 has been providing an online STI testing service in Lambeth and Southwark for almost three years and we continue to step in across South East London following the delayed launch of the new London-wide digital service, which has been based upon our own award-winning specification.
Our model, co-designed with service users, promotes self-management of sexual health, self-sampling for STIs with treatment and/or clinic referral as appropriate and easy access to online clinical support with advice and signposting on our website.
STI diagnostic rates have fallen in Lambeth and Southwark between 2015/16 and 2016/17 by between 8.5-10% following the introduction of our online sexual health service. We have distributed more than 54,000 home testing kits across these boroughs in the last three years for STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV and there is currently a return rate of 80%.
We currently dispatch 1,600 orders on average per week. Last month we launched our new nationwide paid-for service, Fettle, in parallel with the free services we are commissioned by NHS Trusts and local authorities to provide in parts of south east London and other UK regions. This is in direct recognition of the high demand that continues to remain unmet for fast, anonymous and high-quality digital STI testing.
As a not-for-profit social enterprise, we want to see a sexual health service in London that is fit for purpose and ensures no-one is turned away.