Today (Tuesday 22 November) it has been announced that University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust has been appointed to manage sexual health services across Bristol and the surrounding region.
The new service, commissioned by Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset councils, and the accompanying Clinical Commissioning Groups, will begin on 1 April 2017. Running for a five year period, it will provide the region’s first fully integrated sexual health service including the prevention and treatment of infections, unplanned pregnancies and other aspects of sexual health. It will also manage Bath and North East Somerset’s chlamydia screening programme.
The decision comes after a competitive tender process which followed a wide reaching consultation period to canvas the public’s views about how sexual health services should operate, to ensure services were right for people who use them.
Under the new contract, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust will lead a dynamic partnership that will oversee management of sexual health services across the region, subcontracting the running of some services to a range of NHS and third sector partners to ensure existing local expertise is utilised.
A new identity for these services will be developed to raise the profile of support available and ensure access is quick, easy and joined up. There will be a single point of entry into all services via a telephone line and a new interactive website, to help people get care in the right way, in the right place, at the right time.
Speaking on behalf of the commissioning councils, Councillor Fi Hance Bristol City Council Cabinet Member for City Health and Wellbeing, said: “With a growing population and increasing pressures on budgets, we needed to take a fresh look at sexual health services to ensure they are flexible and fit for the future. I am pleased with the new model we have agreed which draws on the expertise and professionalism of local services, with strategic overview from University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust. Taking care of our sexual health is an important part of being healthy and we hope that these sexual health services will help to empower people to have the confidence and understanding to enjoy and take responsibility for their sexual lives.”
As well as making things easier to access, the new joined up services will benefit citizens in a number of other ways including improved management of STIs and more effective use of self-testing kits.
Speaking on behalf of NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Groups, Dr Kirsty Alexander, clinical lead for maternity health services, said: “This new contract will make it much easier for people across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire to get sexual health advice, support and treatment. As well as new and innovative web-based technologies and services, helping people take manage their own care in their own time, there will also be a single phone number to call.
“We hope this new service will allow people to have greater control of their sexual health and make informed choices about everything from safe sex to contraception.”
Paul Mapson from University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, who led the bid, said "We are delighted to have been awarded this five year contract on behalf of our partners. We are working with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Brook, Marie Stopes International, North Bristol NHS Trust, Terrence Higgins Trust and Eddystone Trust, and Weston Area Health NHS Trust to transform sexual health services in our region. UH Bristol has been a major provider of sexual health services for many years and, by working together with these partners, we will ensure we meet service users’ needs now and in the future.”
Sexual health services provide information, advice, treatment and support with sex and relationships. These services are free, confidential and open to everyone.