Sexual health’s digital revolution

Our world-renowned sexual health experts were behind an NHS digital revolution for people with sexually transmitted infections. 

Health Protection Scotland figures show that in 2019 genital chlamydia remained the most frequently diagnosed STI in Scotland, with 17,336 people diagnosed and a further 3,776 reported to have gonorrhoea. In England, there were 468,342 diagnoses of STIs in 2019. 

A team led by Professor of HIV and Sexual Health Claudia Estcourt launched a five-year project to develop a digital platform to improve care for people with STIs, entitled ‘Improving care for people with Sexually Transmitted Infections and their sex partners in a digital NHS’. The automated online consultation will give patients 24-hour access to NHS medical care. 

As Principal Investigator, Professor Estcourt was awarded a £2.5m National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Programme Grant for Applied Research to lead the project. She was joined by co-investigators from University College London, University of Strathclyde, University of Birmingham, Barts Health NHS Trust, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, West Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, Camden and Islington Council, and Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust. 

The project will give people who test positive for chlamydia in-home testing and confidential access to a previously developed eSexual Health Clinic (eSHC) app. The eSexual Health Clinic contains a unique-to-the-NHS online automated clinical consultation that uses an electronic prescribing algorithm. 

Patients will receive an electronic prescription to their phone so they can pop into their local pharmacy to collect antibiotics or get them sent to their home.  

The programme is particularly timely as NHS services adapt to a post-COVID world of increased remote and self-managed care. As we get increases in sophistication and tailoring of digital options it makes sense to combine them so that healthcare can be delivered at scale, cheaper and quicker, to a larger proportion of the population.

Professor Claudia Estcourt
School of Health and Life Sciences