School Health clinics could reduce pregnancy and infection

Issue date: 10 June 2008

University of the West of England Young people are more likely to use sexual health services if they can access them at schools, according to research by the University of the West of England. A pilot scheme offering drop-in sexual health clinics in Bristol schools has successfully accessed 'hard to reach' groups including boys and vulnerable young people who would not otherwise have received advice.

The outreach scheme was run by Brook in partnership with Bristol City Council and Bristol Primary Care Trust in sixteen schools in Neighbourhood Renewal areas of Bristol. It was set up in response to a 143% rise nationally in sexually transmitted diseases between1991 and 2001, and the Department of Health's UK Sexual Health Strategy aimed at reducing the rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in the under 18 age-group.

Young people using the service reacted very positively to it, and said that the approachability and accessibility of staff was key to its success. The report's author Debra Salmon of UWE's Faculty of Health and Life Sciences said, “61% of the young people we surveyed said they attended because it was at school and easy to access and that they would not have attended alternative provision.”

Melanie Iddon of Brook said, “Brook's approach is to take services to young people, because we believe that's the most effective way of engaging and supporting them. We know that outreach work like this also provides an effective bridge to clinic-based services. We're delighted that the research has endorsed this approach and shown how effective it can be simply to provide services where they're most needed.”

Nurses or youth workers provided advice and treatment including contraception, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and advice, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and other health-related issues. The multi-disciplinary nature of the team was another reason the success – youth workers were key in preventive work and talking to young men.

Councillor Peter Hammond, Deputy Leader of Bristol City Council and Executive Member for Cohesion and Raising Attainment, said: “The findings of this research show how important it is for young people to have access to advice and help with sexual health issues in a setting that is convenient to them. Parents should be reassured that the confidential service will always include advice that young people should talk to their parents about their situation.

"Reducing teenage pregnancy rates is part of our drive to raise standards in schools. It is vital we keep children in school and focused on their education.”

Key findings of the evaluation include

• attendances rose to around 1500 per quarter during the 15 month period of the evaluation.
• The ratio of boys to girls attending was 38% to 62%
• The ratio of boys rose to 48% when youth workers as well as nurses were available to give advice
• The school-based service provided signposting to other services available.
• Clinic staff supported schools by providing specialist input for school Personal, Social and Health Education sessions
• The health outcomes for those attending for contraception were good in relation to prevention of pregnancy and early identification of sexually transmitted infections

Hugh Annett, Director of Public Health, Bristol Primary Care Trust, said: "The Brook 4YP Service is an outstanding example of partnership working delivering to young people. This was a pilot project supported by the City Council using Neighbourhood Renewal funding. It was rigorously evaluated, shown to be successful and then continued and expanded using PCT funds. It is and will make a significant contribution to improving the sexual health of young people in Bristol."


Editor's notes

The report, entitled Evaluation of Brook sexual health outreach drop-in clinics in schools is due to be published on 10 June. It can be downloaded from report

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