a close up of a doctor using a tablet

Guide to healthcare in the UK for sex workers

Accessing healthcare is critical for everyone, including sex workers. Today, we’re exploring how UK sex workers can access healthcare and why putting your health first is so important. From registering with the NHS to frequently asked questions about sex work and doctor appointments, we’re covering all the key topics.

Scroll down to learn more.

Accessing healthcare in the UK

Everyone permanently living in the UK is entitled to free healthcare from the NHS (National Health Service). This means you won’t have to pay per visit and can access all types of treatments and consultations for free.

You’ll need to register with your local GP clinic to get started. This is done online or by filling out a form with the receptionist. Once done, you can book appointments with the practice. Your GP will help with most health issues, assess you, and refer you for specialist treatment if needed.

If you’re looking for sexual health or contraceptive services, you can skip your local GP and go to a sexual health clinic. These clinics are also free and allow you to access STI treatment and birth control – but more on this later.

Private healthcare in the UK

While the UK is known for its free healthcare services, you can use private health insurance. This costs a monthly fee or an upfront payment, but you can access specialist treatment and premium facilities without big waiting times.

Popular UK private health insurance options include Bupa, Vitality Health, Axa Health, and Aviva.

young woman talking to a doctor about her medical results

Sexual health services in the UK for sex workers

Sexual health services are important for UK sex workers.

If you’re regularly intimate with different partners, you should be taking frequent STI tests as a precaution. If an STI does appear, you can catch and treat it early. It also means you can notify any partners who might be affected, as some STIs are symptomless.

Regular STI tests might sound like a hassle, but they’re quick, simple, and free with NHS sexual health clinics. Keeping yourself healthy should be your priority. The fitter you are, the better you’ll feel. Plus, if clients receive an STI from you, it won’t do wonders for your reviews and reputation!

So, make sure you’re using condoms and visiting your local clinic regularly to stay on top of your STI status.

UK sexual health services can also help escorts access birth control and PrEP as needed. These medications are also free to keep you healthy and protected while working. Some sexual health clinics even offer vaccines for HPV and hepatitis B.

Navigating shame and embarrassment surrounding sexual health services

Feeling nervous about your first trip to the clinic? You’re not the only person to feel that way. Even mentioning a sexual health clinic will turn some faces red, but it shouldn’t. Looking after your health includes your sexual health, so don’t put the visit off.

If you’re nervous, remember these thoughts:

  • Your healthcare providers do exams and tests everyday
  • It’s 100% normal to look after your sexual health
  • By booking and attending your appointment, you’re taking your health into your own hands

You may want to take a trusted friend or loved one with you to calm your nerves. Alternatively, it might help to bring a book to distract yourself while in the waiting room. Some also find it helpful to take deep breaths or practice breathing exercises to calm anxiety.

Mental health services for UK sex workers

The NHS also provides mental health services for free. However, while excellent, these services tend to have longer waiting lists than sexual health and basic GP appointments. Plus, you’ll need a GP referral to get a foot in the door.

Always contact your GP first if you’re concerned about your mental health. Your waiting time might be faster than expected. But if you want mental health services faster, there are other routes to take.

The NHS offers talking therapy services for those 18 or over. These sessions are perfect if you’re looking for anxiety and depression services without a referral. Talking therapies include guided self-help services, counselling, and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). While you can self-refer, you must be registered with an NHS GP.

Non-NHS mental health services

Alongside NHS mental health services, you also have the choice to work with charity mental health resources.

NUM (National Ugly Mugs) provides sex worker-specific mental health support. The charity’s expert team has partnered with mental health therapists to provide resources and materials to tackle issues faced by UK sex workers. These include a directory of sex worker-friendly therapists, grief and loss resources, and suicide awareness and prevention.

young woman at a doctor's office

Taking the first step towards healthcare can be overwhelming. But it’s important that you take the plunge. Here are some common queries the UK sex workers have about healthcare services.

Should you explain your career?

Sharing details about your sex work career with your healthcare practitioner is a personal decision. What’s important to remember is that you don’t have to at all. However, remember that confidentiality rules bind doctors and can’t disclose your personal information without your consent. So, anything you do say will be in a confidential and non-judgemental environment.

What if your doctor is judgemental?

All professional healthcare providers should be supportive and non-judgemental. If you get the sense that your doctor has misconceptions about sex work, it might be best to change providers. Since sex work can have health impacts, it’s best not to withhold health and lifestyle information.

When should you visit the doctor?

You should visit your doctor as soon as you feel ill, as leaving health issues until the last minute could leave you with complications. So, ensure you are registered with your GP now, as this will make getting care easier and quicker if it’s urgently needed.

The takeaway

The UK has lots of healthcare services available for sex workers, and they’re relatively easy to access. However, there can be longer waiting times. To guarantee the best care, book doctor appointments as soon as possible and test yourself regularly for STIs.

Read more educational sex worker content here.

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