Nurses working in sexual health clinics should be trained to offer routine advice to teenagers on the risks of alcohol consumption, according to report published today.
The NHS is currently missing an opportunity to tackle alcohol abuse through its sexual health services, said the joint report from the Royal College of Physicians and British Association for Sexual Health and HIV.
The report – titled Alcohol and sex: a cocktail for poor sexual health – noted that young people aged 16 to 24 are among the highest consumers of alcohol and also have the highest rate of sexually transmitted infections.
It highlighted that more than one million young people attend sexual health clinics each year, which it said provided a “unique opportunity” to communicate key messages relating to alcohol consumption to those who are at risk.
Among its key recommendations were that all clinicians providing sexual health services should be trained in asking about drinking habits through use of a recognised screening tool.
In addition it said sexual health services should provide information highlighting the link between alcohol consumption and poor sexual health outcomes,andall sexual health services should develop a “robust” care pathway to refer patients on to local alcohol services.
BASHH president-elect Dr Janet Wilson said: “Everyone knows that alcohol fuels risky sex – so a sexual health check-up is the ideal time to broach the subject, to find the one in five young people attending our clinics who are at most risk and give them structured advice around alcohol consumption, referring to alcohol services where appropriate.”
Dr Simon Barton, chair of the RCP’s alcohol and sexual health working party, added: “Failing to discuss alcohol consumption with a patient accessing sexual health services is a missed opportunity.”