Purpose: This survey was carried out to study the views of multidisciplinary health professionals about discussing sexual issues with patients.
Methods: A questionnaire was sent to professionals (nurses, doctors, physiotherapists and occupational therapists) to return by post. A duplicate questionnaire was sent 4 weeks later to a random sample of respondents.
Results: A total of 813 replies were analysed (61% response rate). Mean age+(SD) of respondents was 37+10. Most were female (85%). Test-retest reliability of the questions showed moderate to very good agreement. Most respondents (90%) agreed that addressing sexual issues ought to be part of the holistic care of patients. However, most staff (86%) were found to be poorly trained and most (94%) were unlikely to discuss sexual issues with their patients. The gender and age of respondents was not significantly related to their participation in such discussion. Therapists had less training, lower comfort level, and less willingness to discuss sexual issues than doctors and nurses while doctors discussed sexual issues significantly often more than others (p< or =0.001). Respondents from rehabilitation wards were equivalent to those from medical or surgical wards in their training and comfort. However, they participated in discussing sexuality with patients less often than those from medical wards.
Conclusion: Health professionals agreed that patients' sexual issues needed to be addressed and discussed in health services. However, they were poorly trained, ill prepared and rarely participated in such discussion. This suggests that training in sexuality and sexual issues should be implemented as part of the training of health care professionals.