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Practice sexual health confidentiality questioned

6 December 2011

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General practice “may not be the best place to go” for sexual health services if you don’t want your mum to find out, the Public Health Minister has said.

Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum event today (6 December), Anne Milton drew criticism for appearing to question the privacy of general practice in rural areas.

She said general practice is often the “last place” a person would go to receive sexual health advice or treatment for fear of being “found out”, agreeing it may not be the best avenue for people in rural communities seeking sexual health treatment.

One GP from London said Anne Milton’s comments were “not helpful”.

“It is this skewed public perception that is stopping people from visiting a GP and receiving the appropriate care,” he said.

“This has to change.”

Milton has since contacted MiP and said she was trying to “make the point that young people need to have the access to services they feel comfortable with”.

“GPs provide excellent sexual health care, including for young people. But in order to meet people’s needs, we need a range of services in a range of settings,” she said. 

Dr Peter Marks, Director of Public Health at NHS Leicestershire County and Rutland, said stigma around sexual health is “undoubtedly more prevalent” in rural communities and Middle England, making it “difficult to access services and treatment anywhere other than a general practice setting”.  

“We really need to get the message across that general practice is a confidential and private setting for conversations on sexual health,” he said.

Another GP from London described general practice as the “sleeping giant” of sexual health and said its “huge potential” is not being utilised.

“There is a perfect storm brewing and a danger general practice will lose all its sexual health services, making it very difficult to entice patients back.”

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“I agree there should be other options than GPs as we know that some GPs will not be as professional and non-judgemental as you might expect. Especially if you’re gay, cheating or a teenager” – JP, Lancs