Karen Howell, executive director of the Wirral Community Health & Care NHS Foundation Trust, writes for the globe.
It cannot be overlooked that life in 2020/2021 was at times particularly challenging and unsettling – it is safe to say that the past year was like no other.
While it was a time of uncertainty, it was also a time for significant changes in the way patients and service users receive care and support.
The NHS health and care services have continued to support people and their families through innovative ways of providing care and adapting to new ways of working.
Our teams have done everything to ensure the safety of people and colleagues, and they have adapted to changes – from finding innovative ways of working to fully assuming new roles.
This week I’d like to put the spotlight on our Sexual Health Wirral service.
The team has risen to the greatest challenge facing the health and care system. While the usual walk-in, walk-in and waiting clinics have been suspended to ensure the safety of patients and staff, the services have continued to operate and more innovative, digital, and remote methods have been used to provide care and support while being accessible to all stayed.
Since March 2020, the service has been offering daily telephone consultations for its patients. Video consultations soon followed, as well as personal appointments in the clinics for those who needed them.
These new ways of working were well received and patients felt confident that they were still receiving the same high quality care they expected, but in a slightly different way.
We know from broader feedback that providing care over the phone and video is also appropriate for some individuals with caring duties and work commitments.
Here is just an excerpt from what our patients say about our services: “The staff is very helpful”, “The staff was not judgmental, a friendly team”, “The staff was really informative and made me feel that I feel good ”.
The service’s dedicated website – www.sexualhealthwirral.nhs.uk – received over 272,000 views over the past year.
During the height of the pandemic, the website was a central information hub for people.
It allowed patients to continue to access a range of sexual health and contraceptive support options at the touch of a button, from accessing questions and answers to downloading e-leaflets on various topics, including advice on self-management, to finding pharmacies in the community offering emergency hormonal contraception (EHC). sometimes known as the morning-after pill to order an STI post test kit that will be delivered to your door.
The free and easy-to-use Post-STI kits are shipped in discreet packaging. Patients are tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea, as well as HIV and syphilis.
Every month the team sends over 700 STI kits ordered online to people over the age of 16 all over Wirral. The results are texts and, if necessary, follow-up appointments for treatment and support are arranged.
Our service also works with a number of family doctor offices in Wirral to ensure local people have access to coils and implants (Long Acting Reversible Contraception) in locations close to home.
Although our service works a little differently with new ways of working, our team is always there for you.
If you need to speak to someone about your sexual health or contraceptive needs, please call 0300 123 5474 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for care and support or to request an appointment. You can also keep up to date with service news through the website or Facebook @SHWirral.
Remember, it’s Cervical Screening Week next month. The cervical screening (smear test) is a free health test available from the NHS as part of the national cervical screening program.
It helps prevent cervical cancer by checking for a virus called high-risk HPV and changes in the cells of the cervix.
Attending cervical cancer screenings is important and the best protection against cervical cancer. It prevents more than seven out of ten diagnoses.
After you have received your invitation to attend your screening, please contact your general practitioner. For more information, visit the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website – www.jostrust.org.uk