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GP chlamydia screening intervention boosts test rates

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 16 September 2013

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A trial of a new chlamydia screening intervention in GP practices has led to a 76% rise in opportunistic screening test rates, according to a study published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.

The chlamydia screening intervention, developed by Public Health England (PHE), was piloted in 76 GP practices in the south west of England and compared with 81 control practices.

The intervention, designed around the theory of planned behaviour, focused on removing barriers to offering chlamydia testing to young adults.

It consisted of training workshops, delivered within general practices to develop staff skills and confidence around chlamydia screening, and resources to increase practice awareness, including posters, patient information cards, computer prompts and newsletters.

PHE researchers found that the intervention increased general practice screening tests rates by 76% and chlamydia diagnoses by 40% compared with practices that did not have the intervention.

Of the 76 practices that did have the intervention, those that fully engaged with it doubled their chlamydia testing.

More than 60% of young adults in England attend general practices annually and the majority of contraception is prescribed in general practice, said PHE, but only 16% of the 136,000 tests delivered via the National Chlamydia Screening Programme came from this setting in 2012.

Reflecting the findings from the chlamydia screening intervention, PHE said it was now piloting its 3Cs & HIV Programme nationally to help improve sexual health provision and testing in general practice.

The programme would build on the lessons learnt from the trialled intervention to deliver an expanded sexual health intervention in general practices.

Under the programme, practice staff will be given the expertise and materials to offer chlamydia screening and information on contraception and condoms to young adults in every consultation, and offer HIV screening to all patients in line with national guidelines.

More than 70 local authorities have signed up to participate in the programme, so far, and PHE wants to engage over 500 practices in England this year.

Dr Cliodna McNulty, head of PHE primary care unit, said: “General practice is a natural venue to engage young adults in chlamydia testing, and our intervention shows that providing the right skills and resources can significantly improve screening rates in this setting.

“In doing so, we can also create opportunities for young adults to discuss good sexual health in an easily accessible and familiar place.”

DOI:10.1136/sextrans-2013-051029

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