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Virtual sexual health clinics and ordering contraception online could be on the cards in service overhaul

PUBLISHED: 17:18 27 February 2019 | UPDATED: 08:23 28 February 2019

Generic image of the pill. Photo: Archant

Generic image of the pill. Photo: Archant

Virtual sexual health clinics, webchats, and ordering contraception online - those are just three ways it is hoped sexual health services in Norfolk will be overhauled as part of a new review.

Norfolk County Council’s communities committee is set to discuss the changes at a meeting next week, and papers released in advance painted a complex picture of how sexual health services were currently delivered in the county.

Documents said: “Our current sexual health service offer is based on a traditional medical model with many of the contraception services based in GP practices. It has led to a complex picture via 288 individual contracts with GPs and pharmacies.”

Specialist treatment is also provided by iCash at one of three hubs in Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn. More than 50,000 people use those services every year.

But Dr Louise Smith, director of Norfolk County Council’s public health, said: “Overall our sexual health outcomes are improving. You only need to look at the figures for teenage pregnancy, late diagnosis of HIV and online STI postal kits to see the positive results being achieved.

“But there are some areas that could be better, especially access to some contraceptive services.

“Our ambition is to redesign the way contraception services are delivered by improving access. Evidence suggests that by increasing the use of more reliable long term contraception we would decrease the need for emergency contraception. We also want to improve our digital offer through virtual clinics, webchats to triage patients and online postal services.”

The papers also revealed chlamydia diagnoses in those aged under 24 were a concern and access to long-term contraceptives such as the coil and implants could prove difficult.

Currently £6.8m is spent on sexual health services in Norfolk and the committee papers warned “the service redesign is a complex task”.

Councillors on the committee will vote on whether the review should go ahead next Wednesday.

If approved, it is expected any new contracts for GPs and pharmacies would start in 2020.

• For more information on sexual health services visit www.icash.nhs.uk

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