Background/introduction At sexual health clinics, patients are asked for permission to contact them by a variety of methods. When patients who have opted-out of GP contact are found to have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and cannot be contacted despite multiple attempts, a case-by-case decision is often made, regarding breaching the patient’s permissions and contacting their GP.
Aim(s)/objectives To determine why some patients decline GP contact, and to assess their views on GP contact against their expressed wishes, in order to treat an STI, when a patient is unable to be contacted by other means.
Methods This was a prospective, qualitative, NRES-approved study involving 10 semi-structured interviews with patients attending a level 3 UK sexual health clinic who had declined GP contact.
Results Three key areas of concern were identified: potential negative implications of permanently recording sexual health problems on GP records, including the effect on future life insurance and job applications; concerns about receptionists in GP surgeries breaking confidentiality in the reception area and being judgmental; and patients’ close relationship with their GP. However, 8/10 of those interviewed supported a breach of permissions by contacting their GP in order to treat an STI.
Conclusion With the increased involvement of GPs in delivering sexual health services in the UK, it is essential that action is taken to improve patients’ confidence in confidentiality protections at their GP. Sexual health clinics should ensure they explain why GP contact may be required in order to potentially increase patients’ willingness for this to occur.
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