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The Sexually Transmitted Infection Foundation: STIF level 1 competency
  1. Ashini Fox
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ashini Fox, Department of Sexual Health Medicine, Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, Nottingham NG5 1PB, UK; ashinifox{at}

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The Sexually Transmitted Infection Foundation (STIF) competency programme, launched in 2010 as an adjunct to the well-established STIF Theory Course, has become a nationally recognised sexual health training and assessment programme designed for nursing staff and non-specialist medical staff, from novice to advanced practitioner (figure 1).

Figure 1

Current STI Foundation portfolio.

The latest component, ‘STIF level 1’, is an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)-style assessment in which candidates undertake three distinct consultations designed to address clinical competencies required to provide a level 1 sexual health service as defined by the BASHH Sexual Health Standards.1 It is aimed at community pharmacists, sexual and reproductive healthcare (SRH) nurses, practice nurses, genitor-urinary medicine (GUM) healthcare assistants and junior GUM nurses. It has also been adopted by health advisors, prison workers and doctors in microbiology, dermatology and general practice. To our knowledge, it is the first competency-based qualification specifically designed to match the needs of those providing services at this level.

‘STIF level 1’ is a national assessment tool designed to be delivered at a local level by the assessment lead (from either a medical or senior nursing background). Central STIF administration provides materials and support for running the assessment and each successful candidate is registered with BASHH. Many local courses have been run internally as part of SRH–GUM integration strategies. Those that have been run for external candidates have charged between £75 and £300 per head (£25 BASHH fee).

The level of expertise assessed in ‘STIF level 1’ is relatively basic, the volume of candidates large and candidates’ baseline knowledge and skill mix highly variable. Thus, an OSCE-style assessment is preferable to more time-consuming workplace-based assessment. Moreover, it allows those who may already be sufficiently experienced but lack supporting evidence, to obtain qualification in a minimal amount of time.

By comparison, the ‘STIF intermediate’ qualification is a higher level, more intensive workplace-based training and assessment package for senior nurses and non-specialist medical staff working within level 2 (or level 3) services. ‘STIF level 2’, to be launched in October 2014, is aimed at an even higher level and incorporates additional competencies such as those required in clinical leads of level 2 services and advanced nurse practitioners.

STIF is already a household name in sexual health education and the latest addition to the portfolio, ‘STIF level 1’, confirms its commitment to maintaining standards in sexual health training. As competition for sexual health service provision grows, well-trained fully qualified staff will be essential in any attempt to demonstrate the ability to provide high-quality care. We believe that by using the STIF competency portfolio, sexual health services will be better equipped to provide evidence of skill attainment by their own staff and also demonstrate that their service remains committed to high-quality sexual health training for non-specialists in their local area. As a commissioner in Sexual Health I believe that quality of care is of paramount importance. High quality services can only be provided by appropriately trained staff. I welcome the development of a national, standardised sexual health training and assessment programme. This will bring about consistency across all of our sexual health commissioned services, ensuring that they meet the required BASHH standards. Ultimately this will achieve improvements in the prevention and management of STIs in the population through high quality services

Alison Challenger

Consultant in Public Health

Nottingham City Council

Further information on STIF Competency Programmes can be found at:



  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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