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The impact of COVID-19 on sexual health services in the UK

02 May 2023
Volume 5 · Issue 5


It has been challenging for nurses working in sexual and reproductive health services in the UK due to the significant organisational changes in the past decade. The COVID-19 pandemic led to more challenges at a global level for staff and clients, including redeployment of staff, the closing of specialist clinics and lack of access for those at risk of sexually transmitted infection on a global scale. Despite the pandemic lockdowns, people did not stop engaging in sexual activity, highlighting the importance of ensuring availability of sexual and reproductive health services, and possible increases in rates of infection. There is a need to evaluate the existing service and explore how we can deliver accessible, equitable and high-quality sexual health services in the future.

It is unclear how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the UK. There was a decline during the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, but there was also decreased testing or case reporting (Latini et al, 2020). Before the pandemic there were rising trends of STIs in the UK in certain at-risk groups such as men who have sex with men (MSM), the 15–24-year age group and people aged 45–64 (Family Planning Association (FPA), 2016; Royal College of Nursing (RCN), 2019).

Nurses working across sexual health services are facing challenges due to significant changes during the past decade (RCN, 2013; 2021). Not only has a struggling service had to change during a pandemic, but people's behaviour has changed, too. The reality is that, despite the various lockdowns, people did not stop engaging in sexual activity (Coombe et al, 2021). This highlights the importance of ensuring availability of sexual and reproductive health services at this time (Coombe et al, 2021). Some have predicted huge increases in rates of infection (Jenness et al, 2021; RCN, 2021).

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