By Rebecca Curley, Local Democracy Reporter, 27 Jan 2020
A sexual health walk-in clinic is being trialled after school hours so teenagers can access more help for contraception and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The sexual health clinic at Earnsdale in Redhill, for young people aged over 13, started in the autmn and is being trialled there due to a high need for it in that location.
Data shows the borough of Reigate and Banstead has the second highest number of under 25s in Surrey accessing online STI testing kits.
Guildford has the highest number ordered, with 1,027 between April and September 2019, due to the University of Surrey being in the town.
The next highest figure was Reigate and Banstead with 623 kits ordered. In total, 5,403 were ordered across Surrey in that timeframe.
The online testing kits allow young people under the age of 25 to test for some STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, with the kit delivered to them at home.
They then post the test kit back and receive a result either by text message, if negative, or a follow-up phone call.
The specialised clinic for young people is being trialled in Redhill due to the high need in that area, before a possible rollout across Surrey depending on feedback from patients, councillors were told at a Surrey County Council (SCC) adult and health scrutiny meeting on January 22.
But one councillor questioned whether the rise in referrals and need for the clinic was linked to the closure of youth services.
Cllr Jeff Harris, Conservative member for Tadworth, Walton and Kingswood, said: “Local residents tell me that one of the impacts of cutting our youth services provision are the number of referrals coming into clinicians.”
A report on sexual health and HIV services was presented to councillors at the meeting.
The report shows conception rates for under 18s in Surrey are now at their lowest since 2011.
For the third quarter (July to September) in 2011 there were 22.6 conceptions per 1,000 under 18s, and in the same quarter in 2018 there were 7.7 per 1,000.
Official government data for the whole of 2018 has not yet been publicly released and the most up-to-date figures for which there is a breakdown for each district and borough are from 2017.
They show there were 197 under 18 conceptions in Surrey in that calendar year, ranging from 27 in Spelthorne to seven in Epsom and Ewell.
In Reigate and Banstead there were 20 under 18 conceptions in 2017.
Ruth Hutchinson, interim director of public health for SCC, said the dedicated Redhill clinic and outreach work across Surrey were in response to feedback from young people about how they would access help and where they felt intervention was needed.
She said: “Young people are a key user group of our sexual health services. We work with a variety of stakeholders to engage with them to find out what they need as far as sexual health requirements. But to make sure those messages are going out in ways they are most receptive of.
“We work closely with schools and colleges and other people who reach out to young people in a variety of ways.
“We try and tackle it in all ways. Communication is absolutely essential in a service like this because we don’t need it until we need it.”
Kate Scribbins, chief executive of Surrey Healthwatch, said there was still a concern that some teenagers who did not attend school were not getting access to contraception and sexual health advice.
She said: “We have slight concern about very vulnerable teenagers who are not attending school and may not be getting the messaging from PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) lessons – children such as refugees.”
Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) took over the running of sexual health and HIV treatment in Surrey in 2017.
SCC commissions the work to be carried out and is overseeing a plan to improve the service after some clinics closed during the contract change.
The clinic at Earnsdale is for people under the age of 21 and is held on a Thursday between 3pm and 6pm.
Teens can go in alone or with a parent or carer, however staff prefer to see them on their own the first time.
Staff are trained to spot signs of safeguarding, trafficking and abuse or assault.
CNWL provides sexual health services from three main hub clinics in Surrey – in Woking, Guildford and Redhill – plus outreach work across the county.
After feedback from patients of all ages, TV screens and radios have been introduced, as well as chairs being rearranged in waiting rooms, to offer more privacy for people talking to receptionists.
Contraception such as the pill can now also be accessed online by anyone in Surrey but more complex treatment such as the coil or the implant can only be offered in a face-to-face appointment.
For more information about the online testing kits and clinics available visit https://www.sexualhealth.cnwl.nhs.uk/surrey-residents-only-order-a-self-testing-kit/