Service case study: Umbrella sexual health service

Umbrella provides free, accessible and confidential sexual health services in Birmingham and Solihull and is part of the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust. Umbrella introduced the service in 2015 and they run it in partnership with other organisations and providers across the region. Community pharmacy is one of the partner organisations.

Why use pharmacies?

The use of community pharmacies for the service had four aims.

  • to encourage individuals to use pharmacies for their sexual healthcare needs;
  • to integrate pharmacies into a linked city-wide network of sexual health services;
  • to further support prevention and treatment; and
  • to allow greater patient choice and convenience.

Public Health England (PHE) published a case study in 2019 on the Umbrella service.  The study highlighted how the pharmacy service has gone from strength to strength, providing around 5,000 Umbrella activities per month over a four-year period.

What is provided?

The service is now commissioned so all providers offer all services:

  • emergency hormonal contraception;
  • advance provision of emergency contraception;
  • condom distribution;
  • supply sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing kits;
  • initiate STI testing and provide kits;
  • hepatitis B vaccination;
  • initiate combined oral contraception, progesterone only oral contraception and contraception injections;
  • supply and administer ongoing contraception injections; and
  • supply treatment for chlamydia.

The service has grown since its launch, with around 150 pharmacies now providing sexual health services across Birmingham.

Nicola Thorley, Consultant in Sexual Health and HIV at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust highlighted in a National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Shared learning database entry in January 2019, that the traditional clinic-based service that the Trust had previously been using was costly and was not meeting the needs of the population. The use of a community-based model enables the service to be provided at a lower cost base while meeting a previously unmet demand. This allows patients who find it difficult or prefer not to attend a clinic-based service, to access services locally.  Improved access to screening and testing within community settings enables earlier diagnosis of STIs and blood-borne viruses and has the potential to reduce pressure on staff at overbooked Umbrella clinics.

Commenting on the Umbrella service, Jeff Blankley, Chief Officer for Birmingham and Solihull Local Pharmaceutical Committee said:

“We are delighted how community pharmacy has stepped into the new space and are delivering a range of sexual health services in Birmingham which the clients really appreciate!”

More information on the Umbrella service and other sexual health services can be found on the PSNC Services Database.

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