Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Anonymity and confidentiality: Rural teenagers' concerns when accessing sexual health services
  1. Ruth Garside, MA, BA, Research Fellow1,
  2. Richard Ayres, MRCP, MRCGP, Medical Director/Research Fellow2,
  3. Mike Owen, MB ChB, FFPHM, Director of Public Health3,
  4. Virginia A H Pearson, MRCGP, FFPHM, Director of Public Health4 and
  5. Judith Roizen, PhD, Research Fellow5
  1. School of Postgraduate Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  2. Exeter and District Community NHS Trust, Exeter, UK
  3. North and East Devon Health Authority, UK
  4. Somerset Health Authority, UK
  5. University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  1. Correspondence Ruth Garside, Research Fellow, Reproductive Health, School of Postgraduate Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, Church Lane, Exeter, EX2 5SQ, UK


Context While confidentiality is recognised as a key aspect of successful health services aimed at young people, most research has looked at the concerns of those in urban centres. This paper reports on qualitative and quantitative data collected from general practitioners (GPs) and young people in a rural health district.

Objective To assess the concerns of rural teenagers regarding anonymity and confidentiality when accessing sexual health services.

Design The views of teenagers about using health services for issues of sexual health were sought through an in-school survey of 311 Year 9 and 119 Year 11 students. In addition, 18 single-sex focus groups discussions were conducted in North and East Devon. All GPs in the district were asked to complete a questionnaire.

Results These reveal that the particular concerns of young people from small communities are more to do with the difficulties of remaining anonymous, which are related to visibility and lack of privacy in small communities. These problems were more pervasive among rural young people than those concerns more usually reported about confidential consultations.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.