Mystery shoppers who tested city services designed to drive down teenage pregnancy have prompted changes to how they work.
Morley Street Contraception and Sexual Health Service (CASH), run by South Downs Health NHS Trust, will now run a drop-in service on weekdays from 2pm to 7pm and Saturday mornings from 10am to 12noon.
It will also improve confidentiality and produce straight-talking literature to inform youngsters about sexual health issues.
Morley Street CASH service manager Sue Ward said: “It is vital that young people are given good advice on contraception and sexual health and that this is provided in a friendly, welcoming and confidential setting.
“People often find they face difficult decisions if they are concerned about unplanned pregnancy. We can provide them with pregnancy testing, counselling as well as supporting them in their choice of future contraception. We offer the full range of contraception including emergency contraception.
“Sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia can have serious consequences if left untreated but in many cases people don’t realise that they are affected. Our service provides chlamydia screening through the Big Screen which involves a simple self-taken test for both women and men and treatment for those who test positive.
“We are already noticing an increase in the numbers of people attending since our drop-in started.”
The improved services come after the city recorded a 25% fall in the rate of teenagers becoming pregnant compared to 13% nationally. From a ‘baseline’ rate of 48 per 1,000 of under 18s that fell pregnant in 1998, the level has dropped by more than a quarter to 36 per 1,000. While 187 teenagers became pregnant in 1998 that figure had fallen to 150 in 2008.
The fall was partly due to improved engagement with young people and targeted services. More than 200 teenagers considered ‘at risk’ of unplanned pregnancy learnt about the dangers of alcohol misuse, the role of contraception and the importance of delaying sex until they are ready.