The diffidence displayed by health professionals in addressing service users' sexual issues as part of holistic care has been reported in nursing, occupational therapy and disability literature[1-3]. A theory/practice divide has been identified: that is, while health professionals may feel that sexual expression should be included as part of their role, they often do not feel confident or competent enough to practice in this area. The issues at the heart of this theory/practice divide were explored in an extensive study into the relationship between sexual expression, physical disability and professional practice. The study design was developed following consultation with several voluntary organisations including the MS Trust and a number of individuals living with a disability. Their feedback indicated that sexual expression for people with disabilities was closely aligned to self esteem and quality of life. Despite it being a high priority concern for many people there was no clear avenue for advice and support when disability impacted on sexual expression and intimacy. Many individuals reported that sexual expression was simply "not on the health or social care agenda". In seeking the views of people whose sexual expression was affected by their condition, it became evident that while information on strategies, medication and equipment was helpful, it was the wider emotional aspects of sexual expression that were more important. For example, they suggested support would be helpful in finding social opportunities to establish relationships or in emotionally adjusting to sexual changes caused by the disability. Issues were highlighted around the timing of help, working with the couple, or removing barriers to mainstream counselling and sexual health services. Based on findings from this collaboration, the study focused on care that is provided in the community rather than the hospital setting, and as part of a multidisciplinary team as opposed to a single profession.
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|Published - 2008