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Safeguarding teenagers in a sexual health service during the COVID-19 pandemic
  1. Sarah Bekaert1,2,
  2. Liz Azzopardi1
  1. 1 Oxfordshire Sexual Health Service, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford, UK
  2. 2 Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sarah Bekaert, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK; sbekaert{at}


Objectives The first aim was to examine how the COVID-19 restrictions on movement impacted on teenagers’ access to a local sexual health service (SHS). The second aim was to audit whether safeguarding assessments were carried out for those accessing the service remotely.

Methods April–September 2020 consultation numbers for teenagers aged 17 years and under were compared with the 2019 equivalent. Service safeguarding assessment standards were reviewed for teenagers receiving telephone consultations for the first 6 months of lockdown, April–September 2020.

Results There was a reduction in contact with the service of 100% for those aged 13 years and younger, 52% for those aged 14 and 15 years and 31% for those aged 16 and 17 years for the compared months. A safeguarding assessment was either carried out by the service or accounted for by a partner community practitioner for all contacts with the service by young people 15 years or younger. 96% of safeguarding assessments were carried out for those aged 16–17 years.

Conclusions There was a reduction in consultations for all age groups examined in the 6 months following lockdown. This adds to the evidence that restrictions during lockdown are barriers to young people accessing SHSs. For those who did have a consultation, safeguarding assessments were consistently carried out. Nevertheless, due to reduced contact overall, it is likely that some safeguarding issues remain undisclosed. Multiagency safeguarding networks and telephone consultations with a low threshold for promoting an in-person consultation facilitated access to the SHS and a robust safeguarding pathway during the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • patient care management
  • public health
  • sexual health
  • risk assessment
  • COVID-19

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  • Handling editor Anna Maria Geretti

  • Twitter @sarahbekaert

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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