Free, confidential testing for sexually transmitted infections, with results via text and 24/7 sexual health advice
SH:24 is improving access to sexual health services by offering self-testing kits for sexually transmitted infections, and information and advice 24/7 for residents of Lambeth and Southwark.
Start date: September 2013
End date: October 2017
Grant value: £3,053,870
SH:24 is a pioneering new service offering residents of Lambeth and Southwark access to free, confidential testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Testing kits can be ordered online, and the test is carried out at home and then sent back via post. Results are sent via text message within seven days.
People can be tested for the four most common STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV. If the person tests positive for chlamydia, gonorrhoea or syphilis, they are informed by text and advised to visit a local clinic, with an option to text back any questions for further advice. If they test positive for HIV, a clinician will call them to discuss the results.
The advisory board, made up of representatives from local authorities, clinical commissioning groups, NHS hospitals, the Design Council and the voluntary sector, offers insight, expert knowledge and strategic advice, which will be essential to the success of SH:24. At the first meeting, a design-led user-centric approach endorsed.
Lambeth and Southwark Councils commission SH:24 to deliver access to online service offering testing for STIs for their local residents.
SH:24 is an innovative virtual sexual health service. The website provides information about sexual health and STIs, as well the option to get advice via email and signposting to local sexual health services.
Fully integrated with existing NHS sexual health services, SH:24 is aiming to increase the total number of people tested for STIs and free up capacity in existing clinical services, whilst also reaching those people who are most at risk and who don’t currently access NHS clinics.
A third of people attending sexual health clinics could potentially self-manage their condition. SH:24 will mean earlier diagnosis for many people with STIs, which means earlier treatment and a reduction in the risk of passing on the infection.
"The funding and support from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity has provided us with the resource and capacity to create a unique approach to developing a new sexual health service to tackle some significant public health challenges through digital innovation. Merging design-led thinking, agile project management, academic rigor and meaningful collaboration, SH:24 ensures that the user is always at the forefront of development. The Charity supported this process from day one, helping us to set ourselves up as a community interest company which has allowed us to develop a genuinely cooperative cross-organisational partnership.”
Dr Gillian Holdsworth, SH:24 Programme Director
“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.”
Oliver Smith, Director of Strategy & Innovation at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity
Lambeth and Southwark have some of the highest rates of acute STIs in the country. The areas also have large populations of people who are known to be at increased risk of STIs: young people, men who have sex with men, and black and minority ethnic communities.
Many people who want or need a test for STIs don’t get tested due to embarrassment about going to a clinic, the inconvenience of having to attend during clinic opening hours or not realising they’re at risk.
Existing local sexual health services are over-stretched, with long wait at clinics and alternatives not well signposted.
SH:24 improves access to sexual health services by providing self-testing kits that can be ordered online and done at home, and a completely confidential service. There is no need for a name or any personal details to be attached to samples that are returned.
SH:24 is a partnership between Lambeth and Southwark Councils, sexual health clinics at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital Foundation Trusts, King’s College London and the Design Council. Our funding helped to establish it and the Charity endorsed its set up as a community interest company (CIC) as the best model to deliver its ambitious programme.
SH:24 has brought together public health experts, doctors and other healthcare professionals, designers and software developers.
The service has been designed with and by users so that it meets the needs of those at risk.
Follow the project on Twitter at @sh24_nhs
SH:24 aims to increase the total number of people tested for STIs in Lambeth and Southwark by 15%, at no extra cost to the NHS.
Through implementation of SH:24, it is also expected that capacity will be freed up in existing clinical services, allowing them to deal with more complex cases.