This month`s journal sees a stirring editorial by Dr. Celia Skinner (1) in support of the new UK standards for the management of Sexually Transmitted Infections ( 2), published by the medical sexual health charity “MedFASH” in collaboration with all the major players in the field. Many would see such a document as being rather dry but like Dr. Skinner I see it as a real opportunity. The internal market in healthcare within the UK National Health Service (NHS) can often seem to divide clinicians who could be working together for patients. The standards attempt to prise us apart from our economic sparring to look at the bigger picture.
The NHS “commissioning” process has had the potential to squeeze out those with more specialist expertise in sexually transmitted infection care in favour of greater population coverage from ( cheaper ) non-specialist services. The standards acknowledge this trend to be appropriate in part but with the proviso that there remains a specialist – possessing a UK “Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) in Genitourinary Medicine (GUM)- at the hub to deliver complex STI care ( termed “Level 3 “). It also reinforces and advances the patient safety and care quality movement which has existed in UK healthcare since the scandals of the 1990s.
These standards are potentially a massive boost to our ability in the NHS to provide high quality sexual health care in a unified manner. Of course, they are not legally binding so will require passion and vision for us to go beyond local squabbles to look after our patients better. Indeed the Australian Sexual Health Clinician Chris Fairley, who also writes an editorial in this issue (3), believes that their impact might even be international. I therefore call upon my UK colleagues in the field to keep an open mind and let the this document into their hearts !
- Standards for the management of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) / Medical Foundation for AIDS and Sexual Health (MedFASH). January 2010. http://www.medfash.org.uk/activities/activities.html#BASHH
- Standards for the Management of Sexually Transmitted Infections: will they have an impact ? Skinner C. Sex Transm Infect 2010;86:81-82. http://sti.bmj.com/content/86/2/81.extract
- An international perspective of the newly published Standards for the Management of STIs. Fairley C. Sex Transm Infect 2010:86:80-81 http://sti.bmj.com/content/86/2/80.extract