Institute for Global Health



Assessing the impact of introducing online postal self-sampling for STIs into sexual health provision within the UK on health inequalities, access to care and clinical outcomes.

Project Summary

We want to determine if online postal self-sampling services for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) improve people’s access to sexual health care and benefit those most in need.

We want to discover how people who use and provide these services feel about them, the economic impact of introducing these services, and to determine the overall societal benefit, or otherwise, of this approach to sexual health care.

Sexual health is important for building a healthy society, and treatment for STIs is costly to the NHS.  Young people, those living in more deprived areas, gay men and those from black and minority ethnic groups are more affected by poor sexual health.

Many STIs are rising and so is demand on services, yet funding has reduced.  As a result, services have had to find new ways to deliver care, including ordering testing kits online which can be used at home.  The hope is that these online services are cost effective and increase access to testing, in particular among groups most at risk.

We are focusing on three areas (London, Birmingham and Sheffield) which provide an excellent cross section of our population.  We will look at key documents, interview service users and staff, and consider national, and clinic and online service level data.

Alongside this, we will undertake an economic evaluation. Synthesising these data will enable us to understand the pros and cons of online postal self-sampling, and the work required for implementing, integrating and embedding online postal self-sampling services into routine practices.

The study will help us understand which people access these services, whether it affects their care and clinical outcomes, how services have adapted to changes, and what works best, how and for whom.  This research will assist future service planning and could help develop similar public health services.