Standards for sexual health services


Scotland's national sexual health and relationships strategy, Respect and Responsibility: Strategy and Action Plan for Improving Sexual Health, was launched by the Scottish Government in January 2005. A range of actions were set out in Respect and Responsibility to enhance sexual health promotion, education, and service provision. NHS Quality Improvement Scotland (NSH QIS) was tasked with taking forward the development of clinical standards in relation to sexual health services provided by or secured by NHSScotland.

The standards are complemented by the development of key clinical indicators and sexual health information by the National Sexual Health Advisory Committee (NSHAC) along with an emphasis on sexual health data analysis by Information Services Division (ISD) and Health Protection Scotland (HPS).

Development of the standards

NHS QIS appointed a project group in the summer of 2006 to take forward the development of service-level standards. An advocacy group, consisting of non-statutory sector representatives, was also appointed to work in parallel with the project group to ensure user and potential user issues remained central to the development of the standards.

The standards development process highlighted from the outset that remote and rural areas face specific challenges in delivering generic and specialist sexual health services. NHS QIS convened a remote and rural meeting of executive directors, lead clinicians, health promotion and public health professionals from NHS boards with the highest percentages of population living in remote and rural areas to discuss these issues prior to the publication of the draft standards. 

The draft standards were published in July 2007 and consultation took place between July and November 2007. Following extensive multi-professional and public input, the draft standards were revised in light of this consultation prior to the publication of the final standards for Sexual Health Services in March 2008.

Details of the project group¿s response to each consultation comment is available from the standards development unit upon request.

Next steps

Implementation of standards: budget impact

NHS QIS is developing further tools to assist NHS boards to implement the standards. The main focus is on a self-assessment form and related guidance. These tools accompany all NHS QIS standards.  However, there is evidence that the lack of robust information on the resources required and associated costs is one of the biggest difficulties in developing plans to implement clinical guidelines. The budget impact  report is an attempt to reduce this barrier by providing an estimate of the costs to implement some key criteria within each standard. It should be read in conjunction with the relevant standards.

The report summarises the principles and processes adopted and sets out the important assumptions for each key criterion. The results show that the total cost to implement the key criteria in each standard is about £4.5 million in 2007/08 prices.

Published Date: 1 April 2008


Healthcare Improvement Scotland took over the responsibilities of NHS Quality Improvement Scotland on 1st April 2011.