A unique new online sexual health service allows people to test themselves for STIs in the privacy of their own home and get results by text message within seven days.
• Online STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing to improve access to sexual health services and improve user experience
• Fully integrated with existing NHS services and completely confidential
• Developed through a collaborative, user-centred approach with users
SH:24 aims to modernise sexual health care by offering test kits, information and advice to residents of Southwark and Lambeth 24/7.
Testing for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV – the four most common STIs – will be provided free of charge to people living in the two South London boroughs.
The service is very discreet and completely confidential – with no need for a name or any personal details to be attached to any samples that are returned in the freepost envelope.
SH:24 is funded by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and is a partnership between the NHS and Lambeth and Southwark councils and the Design Council that brings together public health experts, doctors, other healthcare professionals, designers and software developers.
Lambeth and Southwark have some of the highest rates of acute STIs nationwide and large populations of young people, men who have sex with men (MSM) and black and minority communities – groups at increased risk.
Dr Ruth Wallis, Director of Public Health for Lambeth and Southwark, said, “SH:24 aims to improve access to sexual health services for the population as a whole, while focusing on high-risk and hard-to-reach groups. Early diagnosis means early treatment and reduces the risk of passing on the infection.”
SH:24’s Programme Director, Dr Gillian Holdsworth, said: “We know that a third of people attending sexual health clinics could potentially self-manage using SH:24 thereby avoiding a clinic visit. We also know many people who want or need a test don’t get tested for a number of reasons – inconvenience, embarrassment about going to a clinic, or not realising they’re at risk. SH:24 aims to increase efficiency and improve the experience for users and radically improve sexual health outcomes. It’s available 24 hours a day, with confidentiality and results by text within a week guaranteed.”
Free of charge, free of doubt – and freeing up NHS capacity SH:24 is fully integrated with existing specialist sexual health services. It will:
• Provide rapid diagnosis and treatment of STIs at no cost to the
• Increase the total number of people tested by 15% at no extra cost
• Free up capacity in existing clinical services to deal with complex cases
Individuals can simply order an STI test kit on the SH:24 website at any time and carry out the test in their own home.
Anyone testing positive for chlamydia, gonorrhoea or syphilis will be informed by text and advised to visit a local clinic with an option to text back any questions for further advice.
If someone tests positive for HIV, they will receive a text message informing them that a clinician will call them to discuss their results.
Chris Howroyd, SH:24’s Service Development Lead, said: “We believe SH:24 will prove to be a great example of how using technology on the frontline can improve experience and access to services, reducing pressure on clinical staff in the NHS.
“SH:24 has been designed with and by users so we know people want and need the service. We have worked with national and local safeguarding experts (including the local Safeguarding Children Boards) to develop a robust safeguarding policy and ensure that young people are protected appropriately.
“By engaging high risk groups and promoting self-management, SH:24 seeks to raise awareness of the simple but vital truth that prevention is always better than cure.”
“SH:24 represents a genuine opportunity to change sexual health service provision. The aim is to develop an easy to use, 100% free service that improves access to sexual health services – especially to those who are most at risk and don’t currently access NHS clinics. Our approach makes it easy to scale and replicate in other areas.”
Oliver Smith, Director of Strategy & Innovation at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, said: “As a catalyst for innovation in healthcare, we support projects that take risks and test new ways of tackling very real health challenges. SH:24 captures well what we think innovation in healthcare is about: working in partnership to develop ideas that can enhance NHS provision and offer people easier ways of accessing health services.”
The service is now live at www.sh24.org.uk