Development of On-Site Sexual Health Services in Northumberland

 The idea of developing on-site sexual health services in Northumberland schools was floated at a teenage pregnancy action-planning event in 2000. Young people who might not normally have a voice were selected from schools in high-rate areas and supported by youth workers to explore their ideas about improving youth sexual health. Young people talked about how on-site services would benefit them - and shared this with senior professionals attending the event including two head-teachers.

Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) funding was injected into setting up a pilot on-site service in two schools - which had both high rates of teenage pregnancy locally and head-teachers keen to be involved.

Monitoring of service usage showed that over time more young people accessed the service just to talk and ask questions - and a shift in attendance for emergency hormonal contraception towards non-emergency contraception methods. This suggested that the service was effective in providing early intervention.

Following the success of the pilot other schools requested the service. The service is a generic health drop-in provided by Northumberland Care Trust delivered by peripatetic teams (comprising a family planning trained nurse and a support worker). Those school nurses who are family planning trained co-deliver the service with the peripatetic team. A full contraceptive service is provided (with the exception of implants and IUD/IUS) - and Chlamydia testing is also offered.

Eleven high schools in Northumberland now offer the service, which is available in a total of 30 youth-focused venues across the county. Each school opting for the service signs a working agreement with the Care Trust - and is supported in managing consultation with governors and parents.

The service has developed links with SRE - offering training for teachers about contraception and services - and training for nurses enabling them to provide specialist SRE input. School nurses receive training updates on local services, for example how young people can access EHC from pharmacies. Thus health and education professionals are able to give accurate and early signposting to services.

The service has now been mainstreamed within Northumberland Care Trust - with all posts secured. The service team is based in the Care Trust - and works closely with members of the Families and Children's Trust (FACT). There is support for the services from both the local authority and PCT with the partnership between the two being cemented through the Northumberland Family and Children's Trust.

The local press once did a story in which they listed all the high schools that provided services in Northumberland and North Tyneside. However schools did not experience a backlash and parents have remained consistently supportive of the service.

Consultation is carried out with young people annually - and 69% of service users indicate that they would not access any service other than the school-based drop-in. Feedback has also been gathered from teachers who report a reduced burden and value having a service on-hand that they can refer young people to.

For further information contact:
Karen Herne, Lead Nurse for Contraception, Northumberland Care Trust,

Judith Stonebridge, Strategic Manager for Sexual Health Services, Northumberland Care Trust