What can be learnt from a qualitative evaluation of implementing a rapid sexual health testing, diagnosis and treatment service?

Ava Lorenc, Joanna Kesten, Emer Brangan, Paddy J Horner, Michael Clarke, Megan Crofts, Jonathan Turner, Peter Muir, Jeremy Horwood*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Objectives
To investigate experiences of implementing a new rapid sexual health testing, diagnosis and treatment service.
Design
A theory-based qualitative evaluation with a focused ethnographic approach using non-participant observations and interviews with patient and clinic staff. Normalisation Process Theory was used to structure interview questions and thematic analysis.
Setting
A sexual health centre in Bristol, UK.
Participants
26 patients and 21 staff involved in the rapid sexually transmitted infection (STI) service were interviewed. Purposive sampling aimed for a range of views and experiences and socio-demographics and STI results for patients, job grades and roles for staff. 40 hours of observations conducted.
Results
Implementation of the new service required co-ordinated changes in practice across multiple staff teams. Patients also needed to make changes to how they accessed the service. Multiple small ‘pilots’ of process changes were necessary to find workable options. For example, the service was introduced in phases beginning with male patients. This responsive operating mode created challenges for delivering comprehensive training and communication in advance to all staff. However, staff worked together to adjust and improve the new service, and morale was buoyed through observing positive impacts on patient care. Patients valued faster results and avoiding unnecessary treatment. Patients reported that they were willing to drop-off self-samples and return for a follow-up appointment, enabling infection-specific treatment in accordance with test results thus improving antimicrobial stewardship.
Conclusions
The new service was acceptable to staff and patients. Implementation of service changes to improve access and delivery of care in the context of stretched resources can pose challenges for staff at all levels. Early evaluation of pilots of process changes, played an important role in the success of the service by rapidly feeding back issues for adjustment. Visibility to staff of positive impacts on patient care is important in maintaining morale.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMJ Open
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Oct 2021

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