Statistics from Altmetric.com
Despite progress in recent years the UK continues to have high rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), with some population groups disproportionately at risk of poor sexual health. It is widely accepted that effective commissioning of services and interventions is key to improving health outcomes.
To support commissioners and providers in this aim and to help them achieve high quality services for the populations they serve, the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, and MEDFASH (Medical Foundation for HIV & Sexual Health) have comprehensively revised and updated the Standards for the management of STIs,1 originally published in 2010.
There has been a momentous change across the health commissioning landscape in England since the original standards were launched. Local authorities are now mandated to commission sexual health services2 as part of their new public health responsibilities under the Health and Social Care Act 2012. In recognition of this, the revised standards are endorsed by Public Health England, the Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health.
Endorsement has also been given by all the professional bodies representing clinicians involved in the delivery of services managing STIs in England: the Royal Colleges of Physicians, General Practitioners, Pathologists and Nursing, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the HIV Pharmacy Association, the Genitourinary Nurses Association and the Society of Sexual Health Advisers.
The standards represent current best practice and are intended for use in all services commissioned to manage STIs, including those provided by the independent and third sectors. They are also strongly recommended for use in independent services not commissioned by the public sector. With increasing numbers of primary and community healthcare providers playing a role in the management of STIs alongside genitourinary medicine specialist services, the standards specify the key elements of best practice that people seeking help in relation to STIs are entitled to expect, whichever service they choose to attend. While written to be applicable to the commissioning system in England, their clinical recommendations on STI management also apply to Wales and Northern Ireland. Separate standards for sexual health services for Scotland3 were produced by National Health Service Quality Improvement Scotland and informed the development of the original version of these standards.
The nine standards bring together and contextualise existing guidance. They cover all aspects of the management of STIs including access to services, the diagnosis and treatment of individuals and the broader public health role of infection control. In order to achieve alignment with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence quality standards each one contains a quality statement, quality measures and quality standards, followed by implications for commissioners, service providers, healthcare professionals and people with needs relating to STIs. Supporting information and references are also provided.
The standards are an essential tool for providers and commissioners, enabling them to ensure that all people with needs relating to STIs are offered choice and consistent quality of care wherever they access services. The challenges are now for local authority commissioners and the range of service providers to own and implement the standards and use them to commission, deliver and monitor services effectively.
Sexual ill health will continue to pose a major challenge across the UK in the coming years. The effective management of STIs, as specified in the standards, will improve health outcomes for individuals, protect the broader public health and ensure optimum use of resources. It is imperative for us all to work in partnership to achieve these ends.
Authors information Imtyaz Ahmed-Jushuf is Chair of the BASHH Clinical Standards Unit, and Ruth Lowbury is Chief Executive of MEDFASH.
Funding The development of the Standards for the management of sexually transmitted infections was funded by BASHH.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.