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STI course improves GPs' practice

Sexual health

Sexual health

The STI foundation course (STIF) increases GPs' confidence in history taking and testing for infections, a survey has found. Virtually all those who had attended the course would recommend it to a colleague.

Most GPs have heard of, or attended, the STIF course. The authors of this study ask a daring but important question – does it actually make a difference to practice?

Anonymous questionnaires were sent to all those who had attended the STIF course run in Newcastle between 2002 and 2006. Information about age, sex, year of course attended, occupation and reason for attendance was recorded.

Apart from the usual feedback about the course, attendees were also asked about their confidence in sexual history taking since the course, any change in consultation behaviour and also their practice regarding testing for STIs including HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

A total of 324 questionnaires were distributed with a return rate of 48%. The majority of respondents were doctors and of these, 84% were GPs; of the 40% that were nurses, 45% were practice nurses.

Most people said they were more confident about taking a sexual history and 74% (including 84% of GPs) said that they did this more often than they did before attending the STIF course.

A total of 69% of respondents stated they provided HIV testing in their clinical practice and of these 14% (including 14% of GPs) had not provided this service before attendance. And 37% of respondents (61% of GPs) said they had started offering syphilis testing since the course. Although chlamydia testing was provided by 96% of respondents (and 100% of GPs), most only offered it to symptomatic patients rather than carrying out opportunistic screening.

Overall, 97% of respondents felt that regular updates would be useful, ranging from annual (most preferred) to triennial (least preferred) updates. In total, 92% of all respondents felt the STIF course covered the necessary basic information about STIs and 82% would have valued practical sessions. Virtually all respondents (98%) would recommend a STIF course to others.

This is a strong message to organisations that provide educational funding to GPs and practice nurses that STIF courses are very much valued by primary care staff. The most important outcome is that these courses appear to change healthcare professionals' behaviour and improve provision of STI care.

Richards JE, Pattman RS. Does the sexually transmitted infections foundation course deliver and change practice? Feedback from delegates 2002-2006. Int J STD & AIDS 2008;19:810-813


Dr Richard Ma
GP principal, North London and staff grade in sexual and reproductive health, Margaret Pyke Centre, London

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