This study determined practice nurses’ reported practice and training in sexual health, attitudes towards sexual health, barriers to discussing sexual health with patients, and training needs.

A confidential self-administered postal questionnaire survey was sent to all 298 practice nurses in one English health district (Leicestershire).

Two hundred thirty-four practice nurses returned completed questionnaires. Most nurses routinely offered well-person checks (90%), cervical smears (89%), travel clinics (83%), saw women with genito-urinary symptoms (77%), and offered family planning advice (54%). Only a minority of nurses (13%) provided specific teenage health clinics. Sexual health issues were always discussed when giving family planning advice (65%) and in women with genitourinary symptoms (58%). Most practice nurses (62%) had undertaken at least one course dealing with sexual health issues in the last five years. Uptake of training was, however, significantly lower in certain groups of nurses. An analysis of the attitude statements suggested that nurses were more comfortable discussing sexual health issues with female patients and teenagers than male patients and different sexual orientations. Nurses who had received training reported more positive attitudes towards discussing sexual health issues with patients.

The study concluded that practice nurses offer a wide range of services in which they need to take a sexual history and offer appropriate advice is essential. There is scope to improve the provision of sexual health services by nurses in general practice, particularly concerning teenagers’ services.