Discussing sexual wellbeing with stroke patients

West MidlandsStroke
Published Date: 1 Jan 2014

Discussing Sexual Wellbeing with Stroke Patients: Healthcare Professionals’ Views

Background:

  • Stroke is a common cause of ill health. One effect of stroke sometimes overlooked is the impact on the sex lives of stroke survivors and their partners.

  • Stroke is frequently linked to a reduction in sex drive, physical changes and disability. In addition, the resultant change in lifestyle for stroke survivors can influence sexual satisfaction and expectations. 
  • The Department of Health’s UK National Stroke Strategy states patients need access to emotional support services (including supporting sexual wellbeing)
  • We wanted to find out whether sex was a ‘taboo’ subject for staff caring for stroke patients and if so, why this is so.

Findings

  • Using in -depth interviews with health care professionals (HCPs), researchers found that sexual wellbeing was a topic HCPs did not raise with patients and was infrequently raised by patients.
  • Barriers to starting a discussion with patients fell into four main areas: – At an organisational level, sexual wellbeing was not seen as part the patient care pathway. – HCPs did not feel it was within their role to discuss sexual wellbeing. – Some HCPs did not think it was a priority for or relevant to the patient. – Concern that raising the issue could potentially embarrass or offend the patient and harm the HCP -patient relationship.
  • Resources such as fact sheets do exist to aid discussion, but many health care professionals were unaware of them, and most of those that were, did not use them routinely.
  • CLAHRC researchers have carried out training with hospital staff to build confidence and raise awareness of the need to support patients in this way.