Nurses have accused a private company running NHS sexual health services of using “completely unacceptable” tactics to hit screening targets, after it told them to hand out chlamydia tests to family and friends.
A leaked 1 September memo, seen by Nursing Times, told staff at Sexual Health Teeside: “In line with chlamydia screening and current targets, as a team I would like to ask each member of staff to take home five chlamydia screening packs and distribute to family and friends.”
The service was transferred to private company Assura Stockton earlier this year.
The Royal College of Nursing Northern said the memo revealed a “completely unacceptable way to get the numbers up”.
RCN northern region assistant officer Lin Clarkson said: “Assura Medical only took over the contract from the NHS a few months ago, but if this is the sort of business practice we can expect from them, it does raise serious questions about how NHS services are being delivered.”
But a spokesman for Assura Medical said the rate of Chlamydia screening for 15 to 24 year olds had increased from 19 per cent to 31 per cent since it took over the service.
He added: “Friends and family are not exempt from the need for health education and anything that has the potential to break down the taboo of discussing sexual health issues with friends and family has got to be a good thing for the local population.”
A spokeswoman for primary care trust cluster NHS Tees said: “We were not aware of the internal Assura memo and will be reviewing the appropriateness of this and other health promotion activities as part of the routine contracting process.”