COMMISSIONING: A group of 22 London boroughs have launched a tender for an online sexual health service as part of a major shake-up of services in the city.

The new service will include an online triage service as well as allowing patients to order self-sampling kits to test for HIV and sexually transmitted infections which can be returned by post. The service will also be able to refer individuals to clinics where appropriate.

The contract will be for five years with a potential four year extension. It is planned to start in April 2017.

Alongside the e-service, groups of boroughs in the capital are drawing up separate reconfiguration plans for sexual health services. It is expected the combined impact of the changes will be a significant reduction in the number of of tier three sexual health facilities. These provide a full range of sexual health services and tend to be located in hospitals.

HSJ’s sister title Local Government Chronicle previously reported they could reduce from 35 to as few as five or six.

Andrew Howe, director of the London Sexual Health Transformation Programme and director of public health for Barnet and Harrow London borough councils, said research had found more than half of people who have used clinics would be happy to access services online instead.

Dr Howe said: “By enabling more people to get services online and on their smartphones, we can free up face to face time in open access clinics for those with more pressing needs or serious conditions.

“This is about improving access, getting better outcomes for patients and improving public health.”

The City of London Corporation is leading the procurement. The other boroughs involved are Barnet, Brent, Camden, Ealing, Enfield, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Islington, Merton, Newham, Redbridge, Richmond Upon Thames, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Wandsworth London borough councils; as well as Kensington and Chelsea and Kingston upon Thames royal borough councils; and Westminster City Council.

A recent update on the transformation programme said the inner north west London boroughs have already launched a procurement for the wider reconfiguration of sexual health services while outer and north west central London are planning to go to the market by the end of August.