With the launch of Liverpool’s brand new sexual and reproductive health service, Advanced Public Health Practitioner, James Woolgar tells us what this means for the city and his hopes for the future.
“Sexual and reproductive health is such an important part of our everyday lives, but in the past, services haven’t always been what we needed them to be. Historically, we’ve had situations where testing, treatment and contraception services were dotted around the city – managed by different providers, meaning they were less consistent in what they could offer and sometimes struggling to manage demand.
I’ve spent the last 18 months unpicking the current offer, talking to local people to understand what is needed and identifying what was required to make real change.
The newly created ‘Axess Sexual Health’ will not only help improve patient experiences, but ensure that people know exactly where to go, why and when.
The highly skilled team, managed by Liverpool University Hospital Foundation Trust (LUFHT) will offer a non-judgemental service, which prioritises prevention through education. Their specialist advice and support will also empower people to look after their sexual health and wellbeing – which we hope will translate into a reduction in STIs, unintended pregnancies and abortions – plus see an increase in access to all methods of contraception and earlier diagnosis and support in relation to HIV. Crucially there will be a more prevention focused, education and self-care element at its core.
The redesigned service also means that treatment, testing and contraception services can be delivered in communities via pharmacies – and GPs can routinely offer Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) such as IUDs and implants alongside gynaecology and menopause care as part of a more holistic approach. Liverpool is one of the first cities to fully develop women’s health hubs in this way and I’m proud that we are able to offer this to our residents.
There will also be a highly innovative offer, which enables people to order testing kits and contraception online, making this a more modern, accessible and convenient service.
As the current Chair of English HIV and Sexual Health Commissioners’ Group (EHSHCG), I’m particularly proud that Axess will improve access to HIV testing – meaning we can detect, treat and support positive patients more quickly, alongside routinely providing PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) which is the game changing HIV prevention drug, that will help us achieve HIV eradication within a generation.
My role as Chair of the EHSHCG also gives me the opportunity to put Liverpool in the spotlight for our work in this field. Building on a number of awards we’ve been shortlisted for – and case studies we’re part of – I will be working with the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) to shape the forthcoming National SRH Strategy, Women’s Health Strategy and HIV National Action Plan. That National SRH strategy will give us the chance to shape a local population health approach to improving the sexual wellbeing of all our residents, something that is vitally important.
I feel incredibly excited about what is ahead as we bring this new service online, and I’m so glad that we listened and acted on what our residents were telling us – we now have a service that we can all be proud of!”