The government has introduced a new National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP) that will focus more testing on women, as they are at highest risk of serious consequences from the STI.
Following the latest review and public consultation, the National Chlamydia Screening Programme is changing the way it operates to put a greater importance on reducing the harm of untreated Chlamydia infections on women’s reproductive health. The new programme aims to provide treatment faster and to introduce more testing in local and community settings for women aged under 25 years old.
Up until recently, the main focus of NCSP has been increasing chlamydia diagnoses, through asymptomatic screening of both men and women. The new approach aims to achieve better long-term health outcomes for those who are affected the most by chlamydia symptoms.
The new programme will also have a higher emphasis on reducing the amount of reinfections between young people, which are known to increase likelihood of more serious consequences. This will be achieved through better notification of infections to sexual partners and retesting following successful treatment.
The previous strategy of the NCSP was to offer all sexually active young men and women aged under 25 years chlamydia testing proactively as a routine part of primary care and any sexual health consultation. The objective here was to control the spread of chlamydia in the population through early detection and treatment of asymptomatic (infections which show no visible chlamydia symptoms) infections.
Chlamydia screening in community settings, such as your local GP practice and pharmacies, will only be proactively offered to women under the age of 25 and will aim to speed up diagnosis and chlamydia treatment.
My Pharmacy offers a discreet online service that allows both men and women chlamydia treatment to be sent directly to your door, as well as a free online consultation.
“The expert review group has highlighted the need for the National Chlamydia Screening Programme to focus its efforts on reducing harm by improving asymptomatic screening of young women as they are most at risk from ill health and further complications due to untreated chlamydia, particularly to their reproductive health.
“The new strategy will maximise the programme’s health benefits, helping reduce complications such as ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.
“Specialist sexual health services will remain unchanged. Everyone can still get tested if needed and if you have had sex without a condom with new or casual partners you should have an STI check up annually . Many clinics offer STI tests via their website, which are sent in the post to be taken at home.Kate Folkard, Deputy Director for the National Infection Service at Public Health England (PHE)
Young men will however still be offered a chlamydia test, but only if they have symptoms, if their partner has tested positive for chlamydia or as part of specialist care offered by sexual health services. Young men can also still request a test at a sexual health service.
Looking at past data it seems that young men are less likely to take a chlamydia test. In 2019 less than 10% of all chlamydia testing in 15 to 24 year olds involved young men outside of those provided by sexual health services.
The latest release from the Government does state that gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, transgender women and non-binary people (assigned male at birth) can still continue to access testing as appropriate through their specialist sexual health service.
The recent change of the programme comes after a comprehensive review by an international group of experts in sexually transmitted infection (STI) control, who found that changing the focus from reducing the number of infections to reducing the harms that the infections cause will lead to better health outcomes overall.
“BASHH welcomes the National Chlamydia Screening Programme Expert Review recommendation that future strategy focusses on harm reduction to maximise health outcomes. We recognise the importance of evaluation of all activity and the need to react and respond to that expert analysis of the best available evidence.
“It is important to acknowledge that this change in emphasis is designed to increase the amount of testing in the population of young women most at risk of harm from chlamydia infection. We welcome that commitment.
“We recognise too, that this change sits amid an overall commitment to support all young people, and the range of primary and specialist sexual health services that exist. Immediately prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, England experienced some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections on record, thus it is vital that the sexual health of all of our population continues to be invested in.Dr John McSorley, President of the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) said: