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Comparing expectations and experiences of care for sexually transmitted infections in general practice: a qualitative study
  1. Lorna J Sutcliffe1,
  2. Katharine E Sadler1,
  3. Nicola Low2,
  4. Jackie A Cassell1,3
  1. 1Research Department of Infection and Population Health, University College London, London, UK
  2. 2Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  3. 3Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Brighton, Falmer, East Sussex, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Jackie A Cassell, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Brighton, Falmer, East Sussex BN1 9PH, UK; j.cassell{at}


Background A key aim of England's National Strategy for Sexual Health is to extend high-quality sexual health services in primary care.

Objectives To explore the expectations and experiences of men and women who initially presented at their general practice with a suspected sexually transmitted infection in order to identify areas where change could improve service delivery.

Methods Semi-structured interviews were carried out in six general practices and two genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics in Brent primary care trust (London) and Bristol (southwest England). Patients within general practice, and GUM patients who had initially attended general practice were eligible to participate. Interview transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results 49 patients (29 women, 20 men) were interviewed. Patients approaching their GP practice typically expected written referral or in-house care, but this expectation was often not met. Absence of formal referral, lack of information and perceived avoidance of sexual health matters by practitioners were commonly cited as reasons for disappointment. However, a dedicated service within general practice met expectations well.

Conclusion Purchasers and providers of all general practice services should ensure that any patient consulting in primary care with a suspected sexually transmitted infection can either receive appropriate care there, or a formal and supported referral to a specialised GUM clinic or primary care service.

  • Family practice
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • general practice
  • qualitative research
  • health service research
  • HIV testing
  • primary care
  • STD patients

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  • Funding This work was funded by the Medical Research Council, with funding allocated from the Health Departments, under the aegis of the MRC/UK Health Departments Sexual Health and HIV Research Strategy Committee.

  • Statement of independence from funders The Medical Research Council has had no role in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the paper publication. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the MRC or the Health Departments.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval The CaPSTI study was approved by the South-West Multi-Research Ethics Committee (reference number 05/MRE06/9).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.