IReSH members Nicola Boydell and Sally Brown reflect on the Scottish Government’s meeting ‘Beyond 2020 – Refreshing Scotland’s Ambitions in relation to Sexual Health and Blood Borne Viruses’ held in Perth in July.
What should the Scottish Government’s Sexual Health & Blood Borne Virus look like beyond its current 2020 remit? This was the subject of a day-long consultation that took place in the summer. A mix of NHS clinical or clinical related staff, third sector representatives and academics were brought together to discuss key issues and concerns about how to take things forward.
The meeting began with a keynote address from the Minister for Public Health, Joe Fitzpatrick where he announced the Scottish Government’s aim to eliminate Hepatitis C in Scotland by 2024. However, the overall focus of the meeting was to discuss how to make progress around the five outcomes of the SHBBV Framework; cafe style discussions with facilitators took place on each table, and key points and messages from all of these were noted.
Many of the discussions were focussed on particular sectors or clinical interests, framed around questions such as:
- How can services and the third sector support people to remain engaged with HIV care and treatment?
- What will be the key challenges and barriers to achieving HepC elimination by 2024?
- How can we best target outreach testing?
There were also questions with a broader scope, such as:
- How can we promote good sexual health across the population?
- How can we better use our data to track impact and support change?
- What are the inequalities in SHBBV facing Scotland’s diverse communities?
There was considerable discussion and dialogue on these issues. An emerging theme across these topics was the acknowledgement that sexual health and wellbeing is not solely a biomedical or clinical issue. It is influenced and affected by the wider social determinants of health, social contexts, and people’s understandings of risk. We were encouraged that discussions about how to identify key sexual health issues and deliver an effective strategy focused on the need for more research, more data, and better collaborations.
In light of this, we were encouraged that IReSH – as a network – could continue to make a valuable contribution to discussions about the next strategy and more generally to Scottish sexual health and wellbeing in our ongoing research collaborations and interdisciplinary discussions with clinical, community and policy partners. The current Framework is outcomes based and makes clear recommendations for NHS Boards, Local Authorities, Third Sector agencies and other stakeholders around particular approaches and ‘deliverables’ that support outcomes to be achieved. Where the current Framework outcomes focus on aspects of service provision and policy, we suggest that including research-related recommendations to both processes and outcomes would not only send a clear signal of the importance of research involvement but also facilitate cross-sector, interdisciplinary research collaborations that would ultimately help to achieve its goals.
We plan to continue our discussions and collaborations with partners across Scotland. Given the turn-out of attendees from Grampian, Fife and Highlands as well as Glasgow and Edinburgh, we plan to run events outside the central belt in future. We welcome contact from clinical, community and research partners within and outside of the central belt to continue these conversations and collaborations. Please get in touch if you would like to find out more and get involved in our IReSH network activities.