COVID-19 Sexual Health update
Last updated 20 April 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
- iCaSH sexual health clinics
- Terrence Higgins Trust
- Local Pharmacies
- Online HIV testing
- The Ferns - Sexual Assault Referral Centre
- Ormiston Families - You Can Be Service
- Additional Resources
- To help protect staff and other service users, iCaSH are asking all service users with symptoms to stay at home - if you or a member of your household have a new continuous cough OR a high temperature (of 37.8 degrees centigrade or higher), please do not visit the service and self-isolate for 14 days
- The three iCaSH sexual health hubs in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft remain open but have changed the ways they are working
- To reduce the number of people sitting in waiting rooms and thereby helping to delay the spread of the virus, there will be no sit and wait clinics
- iCaSH will offer telephone consultations (with follow up face to face appointments where clinically appropriate) for the following service users:
- Those receiving/requiring PEP (a treatment for 28 days to prevent HIV infection after risky sex)
- Those who need emergency contraception
- Those who have symptoms of an STI
- For those requiring contraception, you should call the clinic on 0300 300 3030 to arrange a telephone consultation
Women can still access emergency contraception, but the consultation will take place on the phone
For any other contraception you will need to call the clinic who will ask you some questions to make sure it is safe to provide your contraception remotely – you may be offered an alternative method of contraception to minimise face to face contact
- Reviews for people living with HIV aged over 70 will be undertaken via telephone consultations (including agreeing arrangements for delivery of medication)
- If you 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. You therefore do not need to attend our clinic for additional blood tests to check your CD4 count. 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 you will be prioritised even if you are unable to attend the clinic.
We will continue to update this advice if Public Health guidance changes.
- The Suffolk THT office will be closed until further notice in response to the need for staff to work from home
- For the time being, 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and they post supplies to you as usual.
Condoms will also be freely available by post to anyone aged 16 or over. People can contact email@example.com 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 for the next 2 months 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 sessional shifts have been cancelled until further notice
Community Pharmacy teams have had a significant increase in workload associated with maintaining medicines supply 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.
To locate your nearest pharmacy, please visit https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-pharmacy
The online HIV self-sampling service will continue to be available to residents of Suffolk over the age of 16. SH:24 will 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 are working to ensure they are able to continue to support both new and existing service users
- They have instigated a regime of working from home and social isolation within the SARC, which means that robust assessment of clients will be undertaken virtually prior to anyone attending for examination
- The ISVAs will be working remotely and will continue to support individuals via telephone, email, Skype and in the very near future Zoom.
- The team are still accepting new referrals and advise that they have a dedicated email where they can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org as well as the duty ISVA telephone 07866 142139, should there be any questions about the service
- The SARC office will be managed on a flexible basis to allow for as much cover as possible over the greatest period of time
- Telephone enquiries and email are welcome but 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
- 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 email@example.com
To refer to YouCanBe Lowestoft and Suffolk Coastal, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Health England have created some useful resources to use for communications with the general public. There are a variety of digital, social media and print materials, including materials in alternative formats that show hand washing guidance through large print, easy read, British Sign Language (BSL and braille.
COVID-19 Sexual Health update
East on the Move Conference 2017