Report: sexual health services for teens must improve

Croydon’s teenagers will have the opportunity to advise on how sexual health services can meet their needs, following a report published today by Healthwatch Croydon.

Healthwatch’s latest report, on teenaged sexual health, has been published today

Croydon has some of the highest rates of abortions, repeat abortions, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and teenaged pregnancies in the country.

Sexual Health Services: The Experience of Teenagers in Croydon, Healthwatch’s report, is based on the experiences of more than 60 teenaged users of sexual health services. As a result of the recommendations, Croydon Council’s public health team will be staging a workshop for teenagers’ later in the year.

The report says, “The use of sexual health services by teenagers is influenced by a host of cultural, social and personal factors. Cultural taboos and social embarrassment result in sexual health being a sensitive topic to discuss with a difficult to engage group.”

In a statement issued today to accompany their report, the health and social care watchdog for the borough said that they had also encountered the following issues:

Accessibility: Teenagers said there are several obstacles to accessing services, such as long waiting times, short and inconvenient opening hours and few appointments for walk-in patients, which discouraged patients from service use.

Advertising and awareness: It was felt that there was a need for more effective advertising, with better awareness of confidential services, including in schools and colleges. Advertising has a role to play in reducing awkwardness in accessing services. Information was needed to support sensible decisions about sexual health and relationships so they can take responsibility for their health.

Relevant help and support: Teenagers say they need the right health and support, tailored to their needs, particularly in encouraging the first visit. Fear of being judged, nervousness, awkwardness and lack of confidence are barriers to accessing services. Confidentiality is also a key issue with information being shared with parents or GPs, or an open reception area.

Service delivery: When services went well, teenagers were seen by a health professional when they wanted to, with easy processes and the support they needed. However, services were considered to be slow in places and not always welcoming. There were concerns on how staff treated and understood teenagers, just giving them lifestyle opinions rather than understanding their needs.

The report finds that advertising and publicity for sexual health services needs to be updated and improved

Healthwatch Croydon has made a series of recommendations to the council and health service providers, including better provision of sexual health services “especially in places where there is a greater need for sexual health services, such as New Addington”.

Jai Jayaraman, Healthwatch Croydon’s chief executive, said “Croydon has some of the most challenging statistics in London for teenage sexual health. Our report raises issues around accessibility and advertising, as well as understanding the specific needs of teenagers in using sexual health services.

“Before publication, we shared this report and discussed our observations with Croydon Council’s public health team. They have responded very positively to our considerations and a recommendation for more teenage service user involvement in designing services.

“As a result, we have agreed to deliver with them a joint workshop with teenagers to understand more about these issues. It is anticipated that insights from this will deliver services reflecting teenager’s needs and, hopefully, bring better health outcomes as a result.”

To read the Healthwatch Croydon report in full, click here.

To contact Healthwatch Croydon, visit their website here.

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