Sexual health is becoming an increasingly important part of a community pharmacist’s remit, says Hala Jawad…
Pharmacies are increasingly becoming the first point of call for patients seeking advice and treatment for a wide range of conditions.
Not only is this due to the location and convenience of a pharmacy but also to the increased awareness of the staff as being trained professionals that can provide accurate, informed counselling or treatment.
One area where pharmacists are seeing an increased role is in sexual health whether that is through general advice, testing for infections, treating infections or signposting.
Historically we have carried out basic services such as pregnancy testing and supply of condoms but this has been successfully expanded to include services such as screening for chlamydia or gonorrhea usually as part of a locally commissioned service.
We are also able to provide treatment for specific conditions once diagnosed, or signpost individuals if it is outside our range of services.
For pharmacists wishing to become more involved in providing these types of services, I would advise contacting your local commissioning group to see what services are paid for but also to speak to local surgeries to see if there are any areas that you could help them with.
It is important to remember that we are part of a larger healthcare team whose aim is to ensure increased access to diagnosis and treatment – we are not in competition with our colleagues.
A good place to start would be the Public Health England (PHE) sexual and reproductive health profile web pages. These pages were set up by PHE to allow interested parties to monitor the sexual and reproductive health of the population.
Through the data available on this database, we are able to see where our locality stands with regard to various sexual health issues and act accordingly. For example, you may see that chlamydia detection rates are below average in your area and thus target any campaigns specifically around this to improve that figure.
Another good way to contribute would be to tie in with local or national campaign periods such as Sexual Health Week.
Information about these can normally be found online and material could be downloaded to compliment in-store displays especially if you are accredited as a Healthy Living Pharmacy. You could also create your own list of local STI testing sites or GUM clinics and include this in your display.
If you are planning to offer treatment services such as for chlamydia treatment or provision of emergency contraception under the NHS, you will need to ensure that your training is up to date as many commissioners of these services will require that you complete a Declaration of Competence prior to, or soon after, starting a service.
The Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education offers a wide range of courses to provide the necessary skills and relevant accreditation and are very helpful if you have any questions.
I would strongly recommend that my pharmacy colleagues become involved in these services – it is a great opportunity to help increase the availability of sexual health services ranging from preventative advice through to diagnosis and treatment.
We all have the skills and training to do this. I feel it will raise the profile of pharmacy staff as experts in a wide range of health issues.
Hala Jawad is a pharmacist who has worked in community pharmacy and as a GP practice pharmacist. Her website can be found here.