The sexual health service is one service provided by the City Health Care Partnership CIC (CHCP CIC). The CHCP CIC is an independent, not-for-profit social enterprise providing NHS services to local people. The values of the company are Service and Excellence, Equality and Diversity, Creativity and Innovation, Cooperation and Partnership. CHCP CIC provides services to over half a million local people – approximately 250,000 resident in Hull and 325,000 who live in the surrounding East Riding of Yorkshire.

One of the aims of the CHCP CIC is to provide client-centred, responsive services and high quality care. These services include GUM (sexually transmitted infection testing and treatments), Family Planning (contraception and pregnancy testing and support around options), Erectile Dysfunction, Gynaecology services, Adolescent nurses, Vasectomy services, advice, information and support.

The Sexual Health Virtual Clinic offers an online sexual health clinic. The service was developed to encourage and support access to services for people who may find it hard to get to a clinic (the East Riding of Yorkshire covers a huge area) or who may not initially want to attend in person for face-to-face consultations. We wanted to make it easier for these hard to reach groups to access vital healthcare.

The virtual service provides a free, confidential and dedicated forum for individuals to talk, via the internet, to a trained specialist nurse. It helps identify users’ sexual health needs/concerns online and direct them to the appropriate care services, carries out an initial assessment for sexual & reproductive health care and offers a next day appointment at the main clinic (Wilberforce Health Centre) for those clients requiring a physical consultation. It also supplies instant online downloadable sexual and reproductive health and other related information and resources to users, as well as signposting to other relevant services.

The Modern Matron for the Sexual Health service led a team of people including: the service development team (x2), clinical staff (x2 nurses), an external web design company (eskimosoup), an internal IT development officer and a marketing and promotions team.

Aims and objectives for the project were agreed and the team were required to:

  • Develop content for the site
  • Create the name and look of the site
  • Identify any risks to the development of the site
  • Identify appropriate opening times for the site
  • Test the site before it was launched
  • Launch the site
  • Advertise the site
  • Involve the public in aspects of the development

Since the clinic was launched, hundreds of people have completed a live consultation with the nurse, and many more have logged onto the site. It was decided immediate feedback was probably the most appropriate way to monitor the service at the start. Of those that completed a consultation with a nurse, 53% who left feedback have given the site 5 stars, 22% 4 stars and 10% 3 stars. (the stars relate to quality of consultation, ease of use and how the user was dealt with). 75% of those that left feedback said they would recommend it to a friend.

The Virtual Clinic has allowed service users who may not have ordinarily come into a clinic to ask access healthcare. In addition to this, 57% of those who had a consultation did not require a face to face follow up appointment and therefore, these people were prevented from making an unnecessary visit to a clinic.

The clinic has been evaluated and plans to extend the scope of the clinic are being discussed. There is huge potential to ensure that unnecessary visits to clinics are minimised as potential users can access the information online.

The Virtual Clinic is advertised across the NHS services in the area, at GP surgeries and other healthcare providers, and in other high traffic areas such as schools, colleges, pubs and clubs..

Clinic activity is monitored to look for when people are accessing the clinic and what information they are looking for.

A virtual clinic may be relevant for the users of other services and groups. It may be an alternative to accessing a clinic for those who are geographically isolated for example. This is the first virtual sexual health clinic in the area and it is believed that it offers a good alternative to a face to face consultation. It is paramount that support is personalised to meet individual client needs giving them control over their attempts to improve their health.

This is a digital service which provides a platform for better communication between services and their users, the service provides a great support package for local people. In addition, the service considers the environmental impact. The service is able to function in a paperless environment. Client registrations are undertaken remotely, without the need for traditional paperwork, all literature on the websites are also available in downloadable formats. This is also a virtual service; there are potentially no traditional overheads such as travel costs (time and environmental impact) for staff or clients, unless they require a face to face consultation.

Key Learning Points

– Allow time for the service to develop once it is live.
– Continually evaluate the service to ensure that it is fulfilling its original aims
– Evaluate the service to ensure that service users are getting what they want from it (for example, the times the service was provided were extended to fit better with our service user needs.

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