Fewer people in Peterborough used sexual health services during the pandemic

Fewer people in Peterborough accessed sexual health services during the coronavirus pandemic, figures show. Photo: PA EMN-210110-121458001

Experts say widespread NHS disruption and behavioral changes due to lockdown restrictions may have contributed to a significant drop in the number of people contacting sexual health clinics nationwide during the pandemic.

NHS Digital figures show that around 3,385 people approached sexual and reproductive health services in Peterborough between April 2020 and March – a significant drop from 4,855 the previous year.

Clinics in the region treated a total of 7,280 contacts – some people accessing SRH services more than once during the period.

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A drastic drop in face-to-face dating across England could have prevented people – especially teenagers – from accessing help and support with contraception, pregnancy and sexually infections communicable, sexual health charities said.

Figures show that only 44% of consultations held by clinics in Peterborough in 2020-2021 were face-to-face, up from 91% the year before.

Lisa Hallgarten, of the Brook Sexual Health Charity, said remote consultations could prove to be convenient for some, but highlighted the challenges of accessing care for those without a safe space. at home.

She said: “Some will have found the ability to speak to a home health professional straightforward.

“Others may have struggled to find private spaces at home for the conversations they needed, or may have found the lack of data or Wi-Fi to be a barrier to access. to the services they needed. “

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV said young people living at home during closures may have been particularly reluctant to access services.

A spokesperson said: “It is likely that people did not feel able to have a private phone call to discuss their needs with the clinic, perhaps did not want to discuss with their parents the reasons they had to leave the house and did not feel comfortable. receive care or postal kits at their home.

Services across the country also saw a sharp 45% drop in the number of emergency contraceptives dispensed last year, with the rate of items dispensed declining most significantly among those under 16 nationwide.

Peterborough clinics provided 70 emergency contraceptives in 2020-2021, up from 270 the year before.

Of these, up to seven were awarded to adolescents aged 13 to 15, up from 30 in 2019-2020.

The figures do not include contraceptives accessible by other means, such as over-the-counter products or outpatient visits from hospitals.

Ms Hallgarten said a nationwide reduction in overall contraceptive use may reflect reduced sexual activity during blockages, but may also have been influenced by a significant shift towards virtual or remote care.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Affairs said sexual and reproductive health services have remained open throughout the coronavirus pandemic, often adapting by increasing their online services.

He added: “The government has asked local authorities in England to put in place comprehensive and accessible sexual health services – including free contraception – and teenage pregnancies are at an all-time low.


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