You are here:

Sexual health services

Guide to sexual health services

Sexual health services are free and available to everyone regardless of sex, age, ethnic origin and sexual orientation.

If you have a disability and you have special requirements, or if English is not your first language, you should make arrangements in advance.

If you are unable to get to your GP or to a clinic, it may be possible for someone to visit you at home.

Who offers sexual health services and advice?

  • GPs
  • Contraception clinics (also known as family planning clinics)
  • Sexual health clinics
  • Sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing clinics
  • Genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
  • Pharmacies
  • Sexual assault referral centres
  • Young people's services

Not all service providers offer the full range of sexual health services, and it’s always best to check what’s on offer in advance.

You can find sexual health services online. Simply enter a postcode into the find services search on this site. Each provider listed provides information about the services available, opening times and contact details.

How it works

If you visit a sexual health service for the first time, you are usually asked to fill in a form with your name and contact details. With the exception of the GP, you do not have to give your real name or tell staff who your GP is if you do not want to. You can visit any sexual health clinic, it doesn’t have to be one in your local area.

As part of your consultation you may be asked some personal questions, such as your medical and sexual history, what methods of contraception you use and other questions about your sex life and sexual partners. If you need to be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you may need to provide a blood or urine sample.

All information regarding your visit will be treated confidentially. This means that your personal details and any information about the tests or treatments you have received will not be shared with anyone outside the sexual health service without your permission. This includes your GP.

If you are under 16 years of age, your details will still be treated confidentially and no-one in your household will be contacted without your permission. However, staff may encourage you to talk to your parents, guardian or another trusted adult.

Other services may need to be contacted if healthcare professionals believe that you or another person is at risk of harm, such as physical or sexual abuse. However, if this is the case, it will be discussed with you during your visit.

If you have been sexually assaulted you may be offered a more specialist service. They can also help you report the assault to the police, if you choose to.

It’s fine to take a friend with you for support. If you need to have an examination, you should be offered a chaperone. This means that someone else can be with you when you have the examination.

Contraception and STI services

If you need help and advice about contraception, you may want to visit a contraception or family planning clinic.

Some contraception clinics may also provide additional services such as:

  • pre-pregnancy advice/pregnancy testing
  • help and advice on an unplanned pregnancy including abortion, adoption and continuing the pregnancy
  • safer sex advice
  • advice on sexual problems
  • cervical screening tests and breast awareness
  • checks for sexually transmitted infections
  • menopause advice
  • infertility advice

A genitourinary medicine (GUM) or STI clinic will be the place where you can get confidential advice and all testing if you are worried that you may have an STI.

Some, but not all, GUM clinics may provide additional services such as:

  • special sessions for people who have been sexually assaulted
  • psychosexual counselling
  • hepatitis B vaccination
  • post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
  • a short course of anti-HIV drugs for people who may have recently come into contact with HIV

More and more areas have started to merge sexual health providers. These sexual health clinics offer a single point of access to advice and treatment for all sexual health needs. Check with the clinic in advance if the service you need is provided.

Some GPs and young people’s services offer contraception (including emergency contraception) or tests and treatments for STIs. Advice, information and tests are free, but you may have to pay for any prescriptions.

Your local pharmacy will offer emergency contraception and sometimes can test for STIs such as chlamydia. However, this service is not necessarily free of charge.

Planning a pregnancy

If you are thinking of having a baby, your GP will be able to offer information and advice. Some young people’s services, sexual health clinics or pharmacists may also be able to offer you advice.

 Try our pregnancy care planner. It contains all you need to know to have a healthy and happy pregnancy.

Abortion services

If you are pregnant but for any reason feel you cannot continue with the pregnancy, then there are places you can seek advice, such as your GP or sexual health clinic. The Abortion: where to go information on this site offers detailed information about the services you can choose, whether they are free or come with a charge, including what to do if your are under the age of 16. Find out more about how an abortion is performed.

Sexual problems

Sexual problems can affect both men and women. The causes can vary and can either be psychological or a sign of an underlying health problem. 

The best way to get help is to talk to a GP or someone at a sexual health clinic. Some clinics may offer counselling services.

Sexual health problems can include:

Sexual assault services

A sexual assault is a crime no matter who commits it, or where it takes place. It can happen to men and women and can range from inappropriate touching to rape.

A sexual assault referral centre is a place you can find help and medical care and where you will be taken seriously. You don’t need a referral and the service is free. Everything you talk about is confidential and the service will not inform the police until you tell them to. You can access the service 24 hours.

Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre freephone helpline:
0808 802 9999. The helpline is open 12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day of the year, providing support for female and male victims, partners, family and friends.

If you decide to tell the police, you will be seen by a specially trained police officer and a specially trained doctor.

Other places that may help you are:

  • your local GUM clinic
  • hospital A&E department
  • your GP
  • contraception clinic
  • young people’s service
  • police (you will be see by a specially trained police officer and doctor)

For more information, visit the section about Abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault.


Page last reviewed: 24/10/2013

Next review due: 24/10/2015

Penis problems: a visual guide

Penis problems: a visual guide

A visual guide to penis problems, including balanitis and herpes

Sexual health

Articles and videos on contraception, STIs and talking about sex. Includes a section for teens

Vagina health

Find out about vaginas, from keeping clean and healthy to what's normal and what's not. Includes changes after childbirth

Sexual assault

What it is, where you can go for help if it happens to you, and reporting it to the police. Plus links to support services

Video: sex and love addiction

Find out the difference between sex and love addiction and where to seek help if you need to. Clare talks about how she dealt with love addiction