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Sexual health nurses should discuss alcohol with teenagers

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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.”

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • Natalie Jewell

    Unprotected sexual behaviours are deemed "risky behaviours" as is consuming large quantities of alcohol. Any school nurse will tell you that young people who drink re more likely to engage in sexual behaviours.
    I think not asking is more than a missed opportunity. It's downright negligent!

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  • I for one have been discussing alcohol and the risks of drinking too much for a good couple of years at least in the family planning/sexual health clinic where I work, and I imagine others are doing the same. Both the physical risks to their livers etc, but also the physical/emotional risks of getting too drunk to know what they are doing (or what is being done to them), keeping themselves and their friends safe, and thinking about why people drink so much and how to moderate their consumption... Admittedly, the best clinic was a Saturday morning young people's clinic which wasn't too too busy so we had the time to spend with each young person to go into all of this in a very relaxed conversational way, but it was really satisfying and I hope it was useful for the young person...

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