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Health workers ‘should help people with STIs notify their partners’

Helping people inform their partners may reduce the spread of infection, officials said.

Health workers should help people with sexually transmitted infections notify their partners about their condition, according to new official guidance.

Helping people diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections (STI) inform their partners may stem the spread of infection, according to a new draft quality standard by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

The new document states that healthcare workers, such as GPs, practice nurses and sexual health consultants, should support people diagnosed with an STI to notify their partners.

“Partner notification may be undertaken by the healthcare professional or the person diagnosed with an STI,” the document states.

It added: “Supporting people who have been diagnosed with an STI to notify their partners can help to reduce the transmission of STIs.

“It can also ensure that their partners are tested, and if necessary treated, as soon as possible to prevent health complications.”

Services should ensure that they are prepared to talk to people about “partner notification” and to support people to inform their sexual partners, Nice said.

In 2017, there were 422,147 diagnoses of STIs made in England, it added.

The new quality standard, which has been put out to consultation, aims to improve the care for people accessing sexual health services.

It also states that patients should be seen within 48 hours of requesting an appointment, to reduce the likelihood of them passing on infections and to reduce complications of illness.

A Nice spokesman said: “It’s important that partners of people diagnosed with an STI have the opportunity to be tested themselves and if necessary treated, in order to prevent the spread of infections and to reduce their risk of developing health complications.

“That’s why our draft standard supports best practice in current sexual health services, that help and support should be provided to people who might otherwise find it difficult to tell their partners about their STI.”

Welcoming the new standard, Dr Diana Mansour, vice president for clinical quality for the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said: “One of the recommendations of the draft standard is that people diagnosed with an STI are encouraged to notify their partners.

“FSRH strongly supports this recommendation so that STI morbidity is reduced in the community.

“For healthcare professionals, this means supporting people to contact their own partners or to directly contact, test and treat partners of those with an STI without revealing the patient’s identity.

“Partner notification can make patients feel uncomfortable. It might pose a strain in relationships new and old or cause embarrassment with more casual partners.

“However, STIs can pose serious health consequences both to the patient and their partners such as infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease.

“STI rates are on the rise, with a 20% increase in syphilis cases in 2017 compared to 2016, so we encourage people to visit their local sexual and reproductive health clinic and be tested.”

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