Sex is a healthy and normal part of people’s lives, which is why it’s so important that everyone knows where they can go to talk about their sexual health concerns and seek advice.
Everyone in the UK is entitled to free, confidential help when dealing with whatever sexual health concerns they may have, regardless of their age, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. If you live in East Berkshire there are a number of organisations and services you can turn to for advice. This blog article provides information on how you can access them and what to expect from them.
Different Types of Sexual Health
When most people hear the term ‘sexual health’, the first thing that comes to mind is sexually transmitted infections, such as Chlamydia and HIV/AIDS. While this is correct, and possibly the most common sexual health concern faced by the general public, safe sex services across the country offer help in an extremely wide range of areas.
All of the following issues also come under the definition of sexual health and you have access to high quality healthcare in East Berkshire to deal with all of them:
- STI treatment
- Abortion services
- Sexual problems
- Sexual Assault Services
- Urgent help
Many people are embarrassed about coming forward with their sexual health concerns or confused about exactly who they should speak to. Depending on which of the issues listed above you are experiencing, there are plenty of places for you to go. The sexual health centres available to you are:
Contraception Clinics, also known as Family Planning Clinics, offer free and confidential contraception advice to everyone. Some operate a bookings-based system while others offer a walk-in service. The Garden Clinic is based in Skimped Hill Health Centre in Bracknell and offers a range of services including;
- Advice about contraception
- Prescribing The Pill
- Insertion and removal of the contraceptive implant
- Limited amount of free condoms
- Chlamydia self-testing kits
- Free emergency contraception
Sexual Health Clinics
Sexual health clinics provide confidential advice and medical treatment to patients with any number of sexual health concerns, from pregnancy testing to STI testing. The Garden Clinic in St Mark’s Hospital, Maidenhead offers contraception, testing and ongoing care for STIs including HIV.
Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Testing Clinics
STI Clinics, which can operate on either a drop-in and appointment basis, provide free testing, screening and advice for anyone who is concerned that they may have contracted an infection. The STI Clinic in East Berkshire is called Time to Test.
Genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
GUM Clinics are run by doctors who specialise in diagnosing and treating STIs. These medical centres are the place to go if you need advice on preventing and detecting STIs, help dealing with a pre-existing condition or to seek treatment for a non-infectious genital condition.
Patients are usually referred to GUM Clinics by nurses, GPs or physicians at Family Planning Clinics. However, it is also possible for patients to refer themselves to a GUM Clinic by getting in touch and arranging an appointment.
All pharmacists are able to offer free sexual health advice as well as Emergency Hormonal Contraception (also known as The Morning After Pill). It is important to note that patients under the age of 16 seeking emergency contraception may be referred to a Contraception Clinic in some pharmacies.
Friary Pharmacy in Windsor, Superdrug Pharmacy in Bracknell and Manichem Pharmacy in Bracknell all provide free Emergency Hormonal Contraception to girls between the ages of 13 and 19.
Sexual Assault Referral Centres
Sexual Assault Referral Centres, sometimes referred to as SARCs, offer medical and emotional support to survivors of rape and sexual assault. If you need to visit one of these centres, you will be welcome to do so without having to make a prior appointment and the centres do not put any pressure on patients to report anything to the police.
SARCs, such as The Solace Centre in Slough, perform forensic examinations, in addition to STI and pregnancy testing, and store the results of the tests until patients have made the decision to press charges or not. The professionals who work in SARCs have had special training to ensure they treat all situations with confidentiality, sensitivity and understanding.
Young People’s Services
Patients under the age of 18 may prefer to visit a sexual health centre specifically targeted towards young people. These organisations provide free and confidential advice, testing and contraception with specialist training in helping teenagers.
SpeakEasy, located in Skimped Hill Health Centre in Bracknell, offers all of these services and many more to under-18s. There are also several schools in and around East Berkshire with their own confidential sexual health drop-in centres for students only, such as Great Hollands, Easthampstead Park, St Crispins and Southfield School.
Where Else to Turn
If you’re still not sure which service is best suited to your specific sexual health concerns, you may wish to consider calling the NHS non-emergency line, 111, and speaking in more detail with an operator.
If you need urgent advice and cannot attend one of these clinics then detailed advice and information on where to turn and what your next steps should be is available on the NHS Choices website.