Building the bypass - Implications of improved access to sexual healthcare: Evidence from surveys of patients attending contrasting genitourinary medicine clinics across England in 2004/2005 and 2009

Catherine H. Mercer, Catherine R.H. Aicken, Claudia S. Estcourt, Frances Keane, Gary Brook, Greta Rait, Peter J. White, Jackie A. Cassell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Objective: The objective of this study was to examine changes in patient routes into genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics since policy changes in England sought to improve access to sexual healthcare. Methods: Cross-sectional patient surveys at contrasting GUM clinics in England in 2004/2005 (seven clinics, 4600 patients) and 2009 (four clinics, 1504 patients). Patients completed a short pen-and-paper questionnaire that was then linked to an extract of their clinical data. Results: Symptoms remained the most common reason patients cited for attending GUM (46% in both surveys), yet the proportion of patients having sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnosis/es declined between 2004/2005 and 2009: 38%-29% of men and 28%-17% of women. Patients in 2009 waited less time before seeking care: median 7 days (2004/2005) versus 3 days (2009), in line with shorter GUM waiting times (median 7 vs 0 days, respectively). Fewer GUM patients in 2009 first sought care elsewhere (23% vs 39% in 2004/2005), largely from general practice, extending their time to attending GUM by a median of 2 days in 2009 (vs 5 days in 2004/2005). Patients with symptoms in 2009 were less likely than patients in 2004/2005 to report sex since recognising a need to seek care, but this was still reported by 25% of men and 38% of women (vs 44% and 58%, respectively, in 2004/2005). Conclusions: Patient routes to GUM shortened between 2004/2005 and 2009. While GUM patients in 2009 were less likely overall to have STIs diagnosed, perhaps reflecting lower risk behaviour, there remains a substantial proportion of high-risk individuals requiring comprehensive care. Behavioural surveillance across all STI services is therefore essential to monitor and maximise their public health impact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-15
Number of pages7
JournalSexually Transmitted Infections
Volume88
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2012

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