Sexual Health advice and tests available during pandemic

12 June 2020

Sexual health services across Chester West and Chester are now providing postal kits so people can test themselves for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at home.
The service, run by Virgin Care on behalf of Cheshire West and Chester Council, started providing the kits, which can be ordered online, in February just before the coronavirus pandemic began and lockdown started.
They had initially planned to offer these testing kits, as well as telephone consultations, in addition to the usual STI testing they already provided within clinics during face to face consultations at Chester, Ellesmere Port, Little Neston, Winsford and Northwich. But lockdown meant they had to close their clinics to ensure patients and employees are kept safe with only the most vulnerable now able to access face to face consultations.
New figures show that by bringing in postal testing and telephone consultations, those that need urgent sexual health help and treatment have still been able to access Virgin Care’s services during the Covid-19 outbreak.
In January this year, just before postal testing started, 524 people were tested for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV and syphilis provided within Virgin Care’s clinics across Chester West and Chester. 
And now in May – just a few months after postal testing was first introduced – the service provided 518 kits online throughout the month. 
This clearly shows that despite lockdown Virgin Care have managed to bring in new ways of working to ensure people can still access the sexual health advice and care they need. 
Beth Wellsbury, Virgin Care’s service manager for sexual health services in Cheshire West and Chester, said: “Like all  healthcare services, we have had to change the way we work for our patients because of the pandemic and lockdown, but we are pleased we are still able to help people access the advice and care they need.
“While we advise people to socially distance and continue to follow government guidelines, we also realise that it is important that we are there for those who do need our help and treatment.”
Cllr Val Armstrong, cabinet member for Adult Social Care and Public Health at Cheshire West and Chester Council said “Our integrated sexual health service, provided by Virgin Care, is encouraging testing during lockdown which will help to reduce further infection.  

"I welcome the introduction of the online testing facility, which gives people the opportunity to get tested discretely and if required to receive timely treatment. The postal testing service offers a range of STI tests including Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, HIV and Syphillis.  Even if you have no symptoms but think you may have an infection, you can request a postal test by visiting”
People seeking testing or treatment will first of all be asked to carry out a telephone triage and consultation to determine what help they need and then they can order STI testing kits from the site.

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