Screening for sexually transmitted infections in children and adolescents in the United Kingdom: British Co-operative Clinical Group

Int J STD AIDS. 2001 Aug;12(8):487-92. doi: 10.1258/0956462011923561.


Our objectives were (1) to assess the number of young people aged under 16 years attending genitourinary medicine (GUM) departments in the UK in 1998; (2) to identify clinical activity and policy; (3) to determine the knowledge and training needs of healthcare professionals within GUM providing care for this client group. In July 1999 a questionnaire was circulated via the 18 regional British Co-operative Clinical Group (BCCG) representatives to the consultants in charge of all 197 main GUM departments in the UK. One hundred and sixty out of 197 (81%) completed questionnaires were returned and analysed. The reported number of under-16-year-olds attending in 1998 varied considerably between clinics; for females ranging from 0 to 256 and for males between 0 and 50, with a male to female ratio of 1:4.4. The majority of responding clinics, 139/160 (87%) had been involved in the screening of abused children/adolescents for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Most clinics were prepared to screen for STI (86%), HIV test (79%) and assess contraceptive needs (50%) in this age group. Staff involved in care included health advisers (74), nurses (59), and doctors (138) in the responding clinics. Only 31/160 clinics (19%) had a written policy for the management of children/adolescents attending their clinic. The majority of respondents were aware of their child protection policy [122/154 (79%)] and designated child sexual abuse doctor, [125/157 (80%)] in their district. When questioned on previous and current training needs, 134/160 (84%) respondents identified their need for further training in the area of adolescent sexual health and 124/160 (78%) in child sex abuse. The publication Physical Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children, was known to 112/160 (70%) respondents, of whom 58/112 (52%) who answered this question had read the publication. Genitourinary physicians in the UK are aware of the increasing number of children and adolescents accessing their services, and recognize the need to identify those in abusive situations. Written policies dealing with children and adolescents in GUM clinics in the UK are lacking. This needs to be rectified urgently. This survey identifies that further training in the field of child sexual abuse and adolescent sexual health would be welcomed by the respondents.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Age Factors
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Child
  • Female
  • Gynecology / education
  • Gynecology / organization & administration*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Personnel / education
  • Health Personnel / psychology
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / organization & administration*
  • Needs Assessment / organization & administration*
  • Organizational Policy
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / organization & administration*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Urology / education
  • Urology / organization & administration*