Background: Across the UK sexual health services have been affected by the changing landscape of Covid-19. Some staff were redeployed to other areas, non-urgent services were reduced and it was recommended to limit face-to-face contact with patients wherever possible. NHS Grampian Sexual Health Services were affected by these issues and also, the main clinic site was moved temporarily to smaller premises and under 18s drop in clinics ceased. Staff were concerned that young people were not approaching the service in the same numbers as prior to Covid-19.
Method: Data confirmed a large drop in under 18 year olds approaching the Grampian Sexual Health Services after March 2020. Key stakeholders met to discuss this; proposed contributory reasons included: the new location, thoughts that service is ‘closed’, unable to attend due to lockdown restrictions and a reluctance to engage in virtual consultations. The group decided to survey young people regarding their opinions on provision of sexual health services during Covid-19. The online survey was shared through schools, universities and on social media.
Results: 86 young people completed the survey. Only 3 had used Grampian Sexual Health Services during 2020. 36 (46%) stated they would not consider using telemedicine (telephone / video) appointments to access sexual health services (13 (16%) would be happy to, 30 (38%) were unsure). When asked their preference for appointments, video consultation was the least preferred method. Telephone was less preferred compared to face-to-face appointments, but was more popular than video. The most common reason for finding it difficult to participate in a telemedicine appointment was not liking going on video with someone they don’t know and the most common suggestion of what may make it easier to participate in a telemedicine appointment was the ability to have friends/family/someone they trust present.
Conclusion: The survey findings have been used locally to influence services provided for young people, with increased advertising of the current available services for young people and a reintroduction of dedicated under 18s clinics (by appointment), which have the choice of face-to-face, video or telephone appointments. Considering the future beyond Covid-19, ongoing use of telemedicine may be valuable in certain situations, but this study has shown it may be less appropriate for young persons services.
© 2021 The Authors HIV Medicine © 2021 British HIV Association