COVID-19 Sexual Health update

Last updated 19 June 2020

The current situation regarding COVID-19 has meant that changes have had to be made to the delivery of core sexual and reproductive health services in Suffolk.

This page aims to provide up to date information about service delivery, to ensure that people supporting members of the public, and the public themselves, know what services are available and how to access them.

In addition to this webpage, urgent information will also be communicated via email via the Suffolk Sexual Health Network distribution list. If you are not on the distribution list and would like to receive these communications then please contact Matthew.Bury@suffolk.gov.uk or telephone 01473 260942.

Contents


iCaSH integrated sexual health service

To help protect staff and others, iCaSH are asking all service users with a new continuous cough OR a high temperature (of 37.8 degrees centigrade or higher), to please not visit the service and self-isolate for 14 days.

The three iCaSH sexual health hubs in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft are open, but have changed the ways they are working:

  • No sit and wait clinics to help reduce the number of people sitting in waiting rooms, and therefore helping to prevent the spread of the virus, you will no longer be able to attend drop-in clinics where you sit and wait to be seen
  • Call up before you turn up - All patients are asked to call the clinic before attending. The number to call is 0300 300 3030
  • Wearing face masks To help prevent the spread of Covid-19, all patients are now being asked to wear a face mask when attending clinic
  • Telephone consultationsAll patients will have a conversation with a member of staff over the phone to determine what support is needed. This will help the clinic staff to help you quickly, and in the safest way possible. You may then be called in for a face to face appointment, but they will try their best to help you remotely to avoid face to face contact
  • Posting out medications - for some treatments, to save people having to come into clinic, medications may be able to be posted directly to you. This is new and not something that was offered before

Women can still access most contraception, including emergency contraception, but the consultation will take place on the phone.

You may be offered a different method of contraception to what you prefer to minimise face to face contact, but the clinic will do the best to find contraception that is suitable and safe to provide.

Reviews for people living with HIV aged over 70 will be undertaken via telephone consultations (including agreeing arrangements for delivery of medication).

Patients who do not have symptoms but wish to access STI screening and be tested for sexually transmitted infections, please use the Express Test home testing kit which can be ordered online here.

Message for people who are HIV positive

Please be assured that there is currently no evidence that people living with HIV are at any greater risk than the general public of either getting coronavirus or becoming unwell due to coronavirus. patients therefore do not need to attend the clinic for additional blood tests to check CD4 counts. Please follow the NHS guidance about how best to protect yourselves and others from coronavirus, available here.

Please also be reassured that maintaining a seamless supply of anti-retroviral medication to people will be prioritised even if they are unable to come into the clinic.

We will continue to update this advice if Public Health guidance changes.


Terrence Higgins Trust 

The Suffolk THT office will be closed until further notice in response to the need for staff to work from home

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea samples are still being tested and results will still be sent out as normal. Patients who have not received their results after 2 weeks of sending their sample are advised to email suffolkchlamydia@tht.org.uk for their results, and to avoid calling the office (this email address is printed on the tear off slip at the bottom of each testing form).

If young people are requesting chlamydia kits from organisations who have run out of testing kits, they should be instructed to order a postal kit via www.youngandfree.org.uk

  • Terrence Higgins Trust will continue making free condoms available to people in Suffolk, to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy and transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

  • If you are an organisation that provides the c-card,  THT will continue to provide you with resources to distribute. Place your C-Card order via the usual method at www.youngandfree.org.uk/suffolk/ (or via PharmOutcomes for community pharmacies) or contact THT directly at sexualhealthsuffolk@tht.org.uk and they post supplies to you as usual.

  • Condoms will also be freely available by post to anyone aged 16 or over, and also for men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who identify as transgender and people of black and other ethnic minority groups.

    • To get hold of free condoms by post, you can complete the online order form here OR contact sexualhealthsuffolk@tht.org.uk and request a pack of six regular condoms. THT will need a name, age and full postal address including postcode in order to send condoms by Royal Mail in a discrete envelope. With consent, key/support workers can place an order on behalf of a person aged 16 or over.

  • All training sessions run by THT Suffolk have been cancelled, this includes in house training. Delegates signed up to multi-agency training (Eventbrite or Suffolk CPD) will be emailed separately. The health promotion specialist for your area will be in touch soon if you have in house training organised.

All outreach sessions in local communities have been suspended until further notice.


Pharmacy provision of sexual and reproductive health services

Community Pharmacy teams have had a significant increase in workload associated with maintaining supplies of medicines and supporting patients with advice. They may also be short staffed due to staff self- isolating.

In order to deal with this demand, pharmacies may need to reduce the hours that they are open to the public. Most pharmacies will be maintaining opening hours between 10 am and 12 pm and 2pm and 4pm (or 6 pm for the late opening 100 hour pharmacies) at the very least.

They will continue to provide the sexual health services they normally deliver, if at all possible, but patients requiring these services are advised to ring the pharmacy before attending to ensure the service they need can be delivered in a timely manner.

These services include emergency contraception (the morning after pill), chlamydia treatment and chlamydia testing.

To locate your nearest pharmacy, please visit https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-pharmacy


Online HIV self-sampling service

The online HIV self-sampling service allows residents of Suffolk over the age of 16 to order free home testing kits for HIV and syphilis. This is provided by SH:24, and will continue to be available as usual. SH:24 remain committed to maintaining quick turn around times for the delivery and processing of testing kits, however external factors may make it difficult to achieve this 100% of the time.

Testing kits can be accessed here: https://freetesting.hiv/


The Ferns - sexual assault referral centre

The Ferns are working to ensure they are able to continue to support both new and existing service users who have experienced sexual assault.

Staff from the Ferns are mostly working from home, and have put in place social distancing measures within the SARC to prevent the spread of infection. This means that staff will carry out a thorough assessment with all clients over the phone or virtually prior to anyone attending for examination.

The ISVAs (independent sexual violence advisors) will be working from home and will continue to support individuals via telephone, email, Skype and Zoom.

The team are still accepting new referrals and have a dedicated email where they can be contacted isva.theferns@suffolk.pnn.police.uk as well as calling the ISVAs directly on 07866 142139, should there be any questions about the service.

Please be patient if it takes a little longer for the team to respond as they will be prioritising their workload as the situation evolves.

The SARC helpline 0300 123 5058 will continue to be manned as normal.


Ormiston Families' YouCanBe service position

All YouCanBe staff are now working from home and the buildings where the practitioners were based – Volunteering Matters (Ipswich) and Boston Lodge (Lowestoft) – are closed.

Practitioners are still supporting clients but are offering a remote service. As far as possible, work is being adapted to suit remote contact, including relationships and sex education, emotional regulation, grounding, signposting and support accessing other services.

Face-to-face contact is still available in special circumstances according to set risk criteria around immediate and significant harm to the service user’s safety, health & wellbeing and circumstances.

New referrals are being accepted, although practitioners are requesting more detailed discussions with referrers to ensure new clients’ full needs can be met by a remote service. Location-specific waiting lists based on caseload still apply.

To refer to YouCanBe Ipswich, please contact mel.purves@ormistonfamilies.org.uk

To refer to YouCanBe Lowestoft and Suffolk Coastal, please contact jane.grand@ormistonfamilies.org.uk


Useful resources


Advice for women seeking contraceptive services 
iCaSH sexual health service pageSuffolk County Council Coronavirus Information Page

If you have any questions, service updates or useful information in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with matthew.bury@suffolk.gov.uk

 

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