Sun, Sand and (no) STIs

This summer Spectrum Community Health CIC are reaching out to holiday goers and asking them to remember five top-tips to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Holidays often provide an opportunity to meet new people whilst feeling free from social restraints and therefore can lead to increased sexual activity. To avoid STIs and ensure a clean bill of sexual health, people should visit a Spectrum clinic for STI testing before going on holiday.

Spectrum’s top-tips for reducing STI risk are:

  1. Visit a clinic for an STI test before going on holiday
  2. Pack plenty of condoms! – Be cautious of counterfeit brands abroad
  3. Carry a condom in your pocket/bag
  4. ALWAYS use a condom
  5. Visit a clinic for an STI test when you return

Belinda Loftus, Cluster Head of Spectrum Sexual Health services said, “We want to encourage people to visit a clinic for an STI test before going abroad and then again when they return, to stop symptoms from becoming more severe. To protect against STIs and unwanted pregnancy it is essential to pack plenty of condoms from the UK, this avoids the risk of purchasing fake, poor quality and potentially unsafe brands abroad.”

Spectrum clinics offer STI testing, information, support and free condoms* and cover the Wakefield, Barnsley and Wigan and Leigh districts.

Dr Tana Green, Clinical Lead, Wakefield Integrated Sexual Health said, “Chlamydia is the most common STI amongst both men and women, particularly amongst sexually active teenagers and young adults. Always using a condom is the best way to protect from STIs and if anyone is worried about possible symptoms they should visit their local Spectrum clinic.”

*People aged 16-24 can get free condoms through Spectrum’s C-Card scheme and can register for free at

You can learn more about STIs and prevention services offered by Spectrum by visiting our website

‘New’ sexually transmitted infection (STI) Mycoplasma Genitalium – should you be worried?

Mycoplasma Genitalium (MG) is a bacterium that might be linked to genital urinary diseases in men and women. Recently experts have identified MG to be sexually transmitted making this the latest STI for us all to think about.

At the moment, it is quite likely that any symptoms are actually due to STIs such as Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea as research suggests that MG affects one to two percent of the population. The safest approach would be to visit your local sexual health clinic for an STI test.

Belinda Loftus, Sexual Health Cluster Manager, Spectrum CIC said, “Anyone who is having unprotected sex is putting themselves at risk of all sexual infections. If anyone is worried that they might have MG, it is important to get tested. It is likely that they don’t have MG but may have one of the more common STIs.”

Symptoms for MG may be similar to other STIs such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea, and differ in males/females.

Male symptoms – can include pain when passing urine and penile discharge

Female symptoms – may experience vaginal discharge, pelvic pain and abnormal vaginal bleeding.

If left untreated, studies have revealed tentative signs that the MG bacteria could cause reactive arthritis, pelvic inflammatory disease in females, complications with males’ testicles and the early delivery of babies in infected pregnant women.

For more information on MG an interview with Belinda Loftus is available here.

If you have any concerns about your sexual health and would like to contact your nearest Spectrum clinic please visit

Reducing the risk of a rising STI

Efforts to tackle a rise in what was a declining sexually transmitted infection (STI) are being led by Spectrum Community Health CIC to dispel misconceptions and reduce risk.

Once thought of as an old-school disease, Syphilis is becoming more prevalent across the UK with 7,000 cases reported in 2017 and a 20% rise in cases since 2016 according to Public Health England.

Spectrum delivers sexual health services for the Wakefield District and is highlighting the increased risk of Syphilis contracted through unprotected sexual contact.

Dr Tana Green, GUM Consultant, Wakefield Integrated Sexual Health said: “Syphilis is easily passed from one person to another through sexual contact, so anyone who is not using condoms is putting themselves at risk. If left untreated, syphilis can cause serious health problems in both men and women.”

Spectrum’s Wakefield central clinic offers STI testing, information, support and free condom distribution and is located at the Trinity Walk shopping centre, behind Asda Living.

Anna Hartley, Interim Director of Public Health, Wakefield Council said: “We are working with Spectrum to educate and encourage members of the public to have a better understanding of syphilis and how it can negatively affect their sexual health. The best way to stay safe is to get tested and use a condom.”

People aged 16-25 can get free condoms through the C-Card scheme and can register for free at

You can learn more about syphilis and prevention services offered by Spectrum by visiting the Spectrum SHARP website:

Or you can book an appointment by calling the Spectrum Wakefield central clinic on 0800 121 4860.

A new Wakefield service supports survivors of domestic abuse

A new service to help victims of domestic abuse is to be launched to support victims of domestic abuse in the Wakefield District.

The Domestic Abuse Navigator Service (DAN) will provide personalised support for those who are affected by repeated incidents of abuse. It will support victims who may be isolated, have low self-esteem and have a chaotic lifestyle. The service will offer help to tackle issues such as mental health, homelessness, substance abuse and re-offending which are often underlying factors in domestic abuse.

The service is being funded with £190,000 that has been awarded to Wakefield Council by West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), as one of 11 projects to help tackle crime and community safety initiatives. The initiative will run in partnership with Spectrum Health CIC.

Cllr Maureen Cummings, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet member for Environment and Communities, said: “Domestic abuse is completely and utterly unacceptable and everyone has a right to feel safe and secure in their own home. The new service will give vital support to some of the most vulnerable people in our society to help them to get the help they need to move forward and have a better life.”

Dr Linda Harris, Chief Executive of Spectrum, expressed her enthusiasm for the new service and the opportunity it presents Wakefield to protect and support victims of repeated domestic abuse. She said: “Our evaluation of this project will also help us understand and address this issue as an underlying cause of physical and mental ill health and identify good practice for other projects in the region.”

The DAN service will offer people expert help, tailored to their personal needs. Repeat victims of domestic abuse are likely to have financial issues and housing problems, which need to be addressed to help break the cycle of abuse.

The service will also link with the Operation Encompass initiative which was set up to support children after they have witnessing a domestic abuse incident.

The DAN service will run in the Wakefield district for one year, with potential to expand across West Yorkshire if successful. Anyone can experience domestic abuse, any age, social background, education level, working or unemployed, any ethnic background, married, single, same sex partnerships, any level of physical ability, with or without children. And anyone can be a perpetrator of abuse.

Spectrum will recruit two full-time Domestic Abuse Navigators as part of the project, which begins on 1 August 2018.

For more information about the Wakefield District Domestic Abuse Service visit

Nursing Times award in sight for Teenage Pregnancy project.

Janet Oxley, Specialist Nurse at Barnsley Integrated Sexual Health, has been shortlisted in the ‘Nursing in the Community’ category for her work on the ‘The Teenage Pregnancy Pathway’ (TPP)

TPP is a multi-agency initiative developed by Janet to reduce the number of pregnant teenagers who go on to have subsequent pregnancies. The project combines contraception support with referrals from local authorities, social services and charities to support vulnerable young girls throughout their pregnancies.

Janet builds a relationship with all of her patients and ensures an appointment is made after the birth for contraception to be administered. To date, 77% of those who have delivered are now using contraception, preventing a second pregnancy.

Janet explains,

‘I’m so excited to be shortlisted for this award. There are so many dedicated people involved in the Teenage Pregnancy Pathway, and it’s all about helping the young teenage mums make choices for their future contraception.

“By offering a supportive infrastructure within Barnsley, teenagers have come forward not only to discuss pregnancy but other sexual health issues. Working with partners has helped to encourage a culture of openness and continues to challenge the stigma many young girls feel.”

In Septetber 2018 Janet will travel to London and present the Teenage Pregnancy Pathway to a panel of Nursing Times judges. The award ceremony will be held on Wednesday 31 October 2018.

To view all shortlisted entries, visit

Spectrum Sexual Health Nurse becomes a ‘Queen’s Nurse’

Siobhan Andrewartha, a Clinical Nurse Specialist at Barnsley Sexual Health Services, picked up a Queen’s Nurse award earlier this week for developing an outstanding project to support asylum-seeking women.

The  ‘Women’s Group for Asylum-Seeking Women’ was first started back in April 2017 and successfully helped asylum seeking women in the Barnsley area gain access to social groups, improve their English and receive practical and emotional support.

This group was a mix of extremely vulnerable women, some of whom were pregnant, had experienced rape, homelessness, depression, loneliness or feared for their lives.

Siobhan explains, “The Women’s Group created a safe space for women to develop social skills, build friendships and complete mindfulness activities whilst also addressing their physical, psychological and emotional needs.”

On Monday 25th June, Siobhan travelled down to an awards ceremony in London to be presented with her Queen’s Nurse title. This will connect Siobhan with the supportive Queens Nurse network and provide access to a free development programme, bursaries and leadership opportunities.

To learn more about this award and its benefits, visit The Queen’s Nursing Institute.

We’re supporting Karen’s North Yorkshire Relay!

Staff from North Yorkshire Horizons, the county’s integrated substance misuse service, are taking part in an ambitious 180-mile fundraising challenge to raise money for York Hospital’s Magnolia Centre.

The North Yorkshire Relay was organised by the service in support of Karen Jordan, (pictured left), Clinical Team Leader within North Yorkshire Horizons, who was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. Over 40 staff are taking part in the relay to raise money for cancer services and improve care for other patients going through treatment.

Karen says, “It’s overwhelming to see so many friends, family members and colleagues coming together to complete this amazing event. This is our chance to thank the wonderful professionals at the Magnolia Centre for their dedication and the person-centred care they provide for patients from every walk of life. I’m grateful to be surrounded by love and attention, but some people going through cancer treatment aren’t so lucky and centres like this provide much-needed compassion, care and support. Cancer can affect anyone – please show your support for this fantastic cause.”

Relay volunteers will be running, cycling and walking across the county between 18th-22nd June, travelling between 20 to 30 miles each day through Selby, Harrogate, Skipton, Northallerton and Scarborough. The team will also be sharing photos and updates on the challenge through the Relay JustGiving page.

Mark Vidgen, Assistant Director at North Yorkshire Horizons, said: “Karen has always been inspirational to her colleagues, and our staff and volunteers in North Yorkshire Horizons have been inspired again to raise money for her chosen cause. The team has really come together for this and is doing all it can to raise as much as possible. Staff who can’t make it will continue our service across North Yorkshire. They, and indeed many of our service users, are backing us all the way. There are going to be a few sore limbs at the end of this, but it will have been worth it.”


Supporting cancer care

The challenge is off to a successful start and has already received over £1,000 in donations.

Debbie Brain, a spokesperson for the Magnolia Centre, said: “We are very grateful for the support that comes to us through fundraising events such as these. These funds can make all the difference to our patients receiving care within the Magnolia Centre, be it having an ‘up to date’ magazine to read in the waiting areas, comfortable surroundings or equipment to improve the experience and quality of the care we provide.”

“We wish all taking part good luck and hope that there is a plentiful supply of blister plasters!”.

Karen Jordan, who was named “Nurse Leader of the Year” at the Nursing Times Awards in 2016 for her work with vulnerable people, will join the challenge on the final day at it heads to the finish line in Scarborough.

To support the North Yorkshire Relay, please visit JustGiving page.

The risk of potential exposure to Hepatitis C through sex

In January 2018, NHS England announced it would aim to eliminate hepatitis C by 2025, 5 years ahead of the WHO target. Numbers of patients receiving new oral treatments for the virus are already increasing year on year which has reduced the number of deaths by 10% and halved the number of patients needing a liver transplant.

What is Hepatitis C?

  • Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus (BBV) and is the most common type of viral hepatitis in the UK with an estimated 215,000 people affected.
  • The risk of getting hepatitis C through sex is low and the virus is most commonly spread through drug equipment, however risk of sexually transmitting the infection may be higher if blood is present.
  • In the UK, most hepatitis C infections occur in people who inject drugs or have injected them in the past. It’s estimated 50% of people who inject drugs have the infection in the early stages which commonly doesn’t display symptoms.
  • If left untreated hepatitis C can cause serious damage to the liver and lead to liver cirrhosis and even liver cancer.

Sexual Transmission – are you at risk?

The Hepatitis Trust says “The risk of sexually transmitting hepatitis C depends on the type of sex you are having. Because hepatitis C is thought to be transmitted via blood-to-blood contact, only sexual activities that increase the potential for exposure to blood are considered risky.”

This includes:

  • Unprotected anal sex
  • Sharing sex toys that have been used anally
  • Unprotected fisting
  • Sex involving more than two people
  • Chemsex (using drugs during sex: commonly crystal meth, GHB/GBL). Sharing a straw to snort drugs while engaging in sexual activities increases the risk of transmitting HCV
  • Vaginal sex during menstruation
  • Having sex when infected with an STI that could lead to blood-to-blood contact

Find out more about sexual activities considered risky.

If you’re worried – get tested

Are your sexual activities exposing you to blood-to-blood contact? If you are worried that you may be at risk of hepatitis C, visit Spectrum sexual health services and get tested. Testing is fast, confidential and free. Most cases of hepatitis C are treated with a simple course of antiviral medicine.

Find out more about other risk factors for hepatitis C.

Our clinics also offer support for contraception, STIs, relationships, family planning and HIV. Find your nearest clinic here.

Government debate discusses progress in eliminating hepatitis C

A government debate on the elimination of Hepatitis C will take place in Parliament today.

The debate will discuss the UK’s progress towards global targets set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to eliminate hepatitis C as a major public health threat by 2030.

NHS England is on track meet the target by 2025; five years earlier than planned. This is due to significant improvements in the numbers of patients receiving new oral treatments for hepatitis C, which has reduced the number of deaths by 10% and halved the number of patients needing a liver transplant.

Hepatitis C – the facts

  • Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus (BBV) which is thought to affect up to 215,000 people in the UK – many of whom are unaware that they are infected.
  • The virus is spread through contact with infected blood, including through the sharing of needles, razors, or unsterilised piercing equipment. Hepatitis C can also be spread through unprotected sex.
  • In the early stages, hepatitis C commonly has no symptoms. However, if untreated, hepatitis C can cause serious damage to the liver and lead to liver cirrhosis and even liver cancer.
  • The virus disproportionately affects vulnerable groups with limited access to healthcare, including patients affected by substance misuse. Roughly 50% of patients who inject drugs in the UK are thought to have hepatitis C, and half of patients hospitalised by the virus are from the poorest fifth of society.

Could you be at risk?

The most significant risk factor for hepatitis C is sharing or injecting intravenous drugs. As well as posing a significant danger to your health, this also exposes others to the risks of hepatitis C. Find out more about other risk factors for hepatitis C.


If you’re worried – get tested

If you struggle with substance misuse and are worried that you may be at risk of hepatitis C, come to one of Spectrum’s community clinics and get tested. Testing is fast, confidential and free. Most cases of hepatitis C are treated with a simple course of antiviral medicine.

Our clinical services can also help if you are struggling with drugs or alcohol and need long-term support to help you get back on track – get in touch today.

Six Degrees

Six Degrees have secured Big Lottery funding worth £350,000 to provide a new dementia training programme that will aim to help thousands of families across Greater Manchester.

The free, EmPoWereD Conversations training, founded by Dr Phil McEvoy, will be rolled out across all ten boroughs of Greater Manchester to family carers and professional carers. With the aim of alleviating communication issues, the course helps people to break down barriers by improving relationships and giving practical ways to connect and stay connected.

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