THinK Centres in Knowsley

Integration between the PCT and local authority has been key to developing health services in education settings in Knowsley. Locally, there is a history of integration for example, the Chief Executive NHS Knowsley is also the Executive Director Wellbeing Services for the local authority.

Knowsley received the full allocation from Choosing Health in 2004/5 and used some of the sexual health allocation to commission the youth service to do preventive work with young people. The youth service has had a key role in sexual health service development for young people thanks to the Choosing Health money and New Deal for Communities funding in 2001.  

The youth service appointed a specialist sexual health youth worker as project lead who established a group of young people who led a research project called 'Home and Away' which involved exploring the differences and similarities in sexual health service provision for young people in different places. The group compared Knowsley with neighbouring areas Liverpool and St Helens, visited Dublin and interacted with young Dutch people through a video link.  

The young people concluded that Knowsley needed a branded service for young people and suggested 'THinK' - Teenage Health in Knowsley. Like similar Dutch services they wanted 'THinK' to address a wide range of health needs including mental health, smoking, diet, substance misuse and sexual health.  Young people felt it was important that parents saw the service in a positive light - and being about more than just sex.

Five 'THinK' centres are now up and running in Knowsley. These are dedicated young people's clinics and their services include STI testing and the full range of contraception. The five centres are spread across the authority and not easy for all young people to access - thus 'THinK in a box' was created to offer the now familiar brand in schools, pupil referral units, colleges, and youth centres.

With eleven secondary schools in the area it was possible to build good relationships with Heads and Governors. Knowsley Executive Director of Children's Services gave his support to the Sexual Health Commissioning Manager in the PCT making presentations to heads and governors to explain the importance of having services in schools. Their efforts were supported by the Deputy Director of Public Health who has built good relationships with heads by engaging them at a strategic level on public health issues, in addition head teachers are influential in the wider agenda by sitting on the children and young people partnerships and commissioning groups.

'THinK in a box' now runs in 6 schools and 2 pupil referral units. The service covers a wide range of health issues and contraception, pregnancy testing and STI screening is included. In each case the service is run by a youth worker and school nurse. This partnership depends on effective collaboration between school health and the youth service, which is cemented through a detailed service level agreement with the commissioner. Partnership agreements are also in place with individual schools.  The community contraception and sexual health service was also commissioned to work with school health to provide sexual health specific training and support so that school nurses could extend their skills as required.

Specialist youth worker Clare Aspinall describes the service as having a high level of ownership by young people and anticipates the service being awarded the You're Welcome standard. At the same time, senior PCT and LA authorities continue to promote the service to schools.

Key learning:

· Senior level commitment from the local authority and PCT is essential to secure funding and the support of school heads

· It is important to be clear about what is being commissioned and precise in the service specification

· Enabling heads to influence the wider public health agenda helps create effective two-way networks on the ground

· Engaging young people in service development helps ensure the service is well-used and trusted

For more information contact:

Clare Aspinall, Specialist Youth Worker

Liz Gaulton, Deputy Director of Public Health