Exploring sexual health support in Southwark: pharmacies

Five ways pharmacies can improve sexual health support for young people.

STI rates in Southwark are increasing. The area also has one of the highest rates of prevalence of HIV and sexual health services are facing significant changes. As some clinics are being closed there will be a greater focus on pharmacies providing sexual health information, advice and support.

But how well are pharmacists in Southwark able to provide young people with the information and support they need? This is what Healthwatch Southwark wanted to find out.

Healthwatch Southwark’s youth volunteers visited 17 pharmacies and asked them a series of questions to find out more about their services.

What they found

They found that the majority of pharmacies they visited (12 out of 17) train their staff to work with young people. However, when asked what they would do if they were worried about a young person or thought they were vulnerable, Healthwatch Southwark received a very mixed response with only seven mentioning safeguarding processes.

They also found a lack of consistency in terms of the sexual health services provided by the pharmacies and their approach to dealing with someone under the age of 16 looking for advice and support.

Five key recommendations

Healthwatch Southwark used their findings to create a series of recommendations for pharmacies to improve their services and support for young people:

  1. Train staff on how to speak to young people, including what to do if they are worried about a young person what to do if someone younger than 16 comes to them for sexual health services and support.

  2. Check that NHS Choices have correct information about which sexual health services they provide.

  3. Promote what sexual health services they provide to young people more widely, for example, through signs on the window or a leaflets to be shared in community venues and sexual health clinics.

  4. Display sexual health information for people to take away, including information about emergency contraception and STI testing.

  5. Offer and use private consultation rooms to help people feel more comfortable and support confidentiality.

Healthwatch Southwark shared their findings and recommendations with Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Local Pharmaceutical Committee. They welcomed the report and the recommendations given, highlighting adequate training for staff as priority area to be addressed as soon as possible. They also shared a further list of recommendations that they think would help transform sexual health services in Southwark. These were shared alongside our report with Lambeth Council who are the lead commissioners of sexual health services across Lewisham, Lambeth and Southwark.

Read Healthwatch Southwark's report.

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