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Chlamydia screenings fall in pharmacies as more young people turn to online services

By Isabel Shaw

04 Sep 2020

Pharmacies across England saw fewer young people using their Chlamydia screening service in 2019 compared with previous years, a Public Health England (PHE) report has found.

Between 2018 and 2019, the number of Chlamydia screenings conducted in pharmacies fell by 7%, despite an overall increase in testing carried out through the National Chlamydia Screening Programme.

Instead of using a local GP or pharmacy, many young people have instead turned to online services for sexual health screenings, the report found.

The PHE data showed that between 2018 and 2019, the number of consultations at specialist sexual health services [those offering level 3 GUM services], increased by 7%, with the rise most apparent among internet service providers.

In 2019, online testing accounted for 20% of tests and 17% of Chlamydia diagnoses in the 15 to 24 age group – an increase of 22% from 2018.

The report also found that cases of Chlamydia in young people in England had increased by 2% between 2018 and 2019.

Over the same period, there had been a 5% increase in STI diagnoses across all age groups, with cases of gonorrhea rising by 26% and cases of syphilis by 10%.

‘More funding needed for pharmacy’

Some community pharmacies in England can provide Chlamydia tests and treatment to people between the ages of 15 to 24 as an enhanced service through a locally commissioned National Chlamydia Screening Programme. The service is similarly provided by several other healthcare providers, including GPs.

Last year, PHE published a report stating that local commissioners should provide funding for more community pharmacies to offer sexual health services including Chlamydia and HIV testing.

As of 2014/15, only 47% of pharmacies were commissioned to provide emergency hormonal contraception (EHC), 28% commissioned to provide Chlamydia screening and treatment and 9% commissioned to provide free condoms.

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