OBJECTIVE: To compare partner notification practice and outcomes at a provincial and a metropolitan clinic. DESIGN: Prospective study, following standardisation of partner notification policy. SETTINGS: Sheffield Department of Genitourinary Medicine, Royal Hallamshire Hospital and Jefferiss Wing Centre for Sexual Health, St Mary's Hospital, London. SUBJECTS: Consecutive patients with culture positive gonorrhoea between October 1994 and March 1996 who were interviewed by a health adviser. RESULTS: In Sheffield, 235 cases reported 659 outstanding contacts, of whom 129 (20%) were subsequently screened, and 65 (50%) had gonorrhoea. At St Mary's 510 cases reported 2176 outstanding contacts, of whom 98 (5%) were known to have been screened, and 53 (54%) had gonorrhoea. Patient or provider referral agreements appeared more productive in Sheffield, where 60% resulted in contact attendance, compared with 13% at St Mary's. Provider referral was used more frequently in Sheffield, for 44% of referrals, compared with 1% at St Mary's. Multivariate analysis showed that partner notification was less effective for casual and short term (< 7 days) partnerships in both centres, and for homosexual men at St Mary's. CONCLUSION: Partner notification outcomes were better in the provincial setting where contact attendance could be recorded more reliably and provider referral was used more extensively. The high proportion of contacts who remained untraced in both settings indicates the need for complementary screening and prevention initiatives.
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