Summary of report content
Healthwatch Devon undertook research into young people’s experience of sexual health education and services, following up on previous research in 2015 and 2016. They surveyed 545 people aged 16 to 20 and held 5 workshops with 72 participants.
Under half of those surveyed felt that their sexual health education was acceptable. Whilst they felt biological subjects were the main focus of their education, they wanted other topics, including LGBTQ+ and sexual identities and accessing sexual health services, to be covered more. They felt that a focus on biological processes and STIs meant that sexual education can feel negative. The timing and delivery of sexual health education had a large impact on the student’s experiences.
The research found that young people use the internet most frequently for sexual health advice, followed by friends and family. Young people value GPs and sexual health clinics for their professional expertise and confidentiality. Pharmacies are seen primarily as places for collecting medicines and not as places for specialist advice, to change this perception, people wanted an emphasis on encouraging privacy and confidentiality. Over half of those surveyed had good or excellent experiences of visits to sexual health clinics, because their needs were met, and they felt comfortable, supported, and not judged by staff. Over three quarters of those who have visited sexual health clinics travelled for less than 30 minutes to access the clinic.
There were 8 recommendations about the timing and frequency of sexual health education; how schools could facilitate access to information on sexual health services; how pharmacies could make young people feel more confident about accessing sexual health services; access to specialist teachers and the content of sexual health education.