Brook’s Digital Front Door Safeguarding Journey

Helen Anderson, Digital Manager at Brook, shares her insight on Brook’s Digital Front Door Journey and overcoming the challenges of safeguarding through digital tools 

Over the last 12 months we have designed, developed and implemented three new innovative digital tools that form phase one of Brook’s Digital Front Door (DFD). Our online STI testing tool our signposting tool and our staff hub aim to provide young people with a seamless journey through our sexual health services. While our plans predate Covid-19, the last 18 months have demonstrated better than ever how vital digital healthcare can be. 

The DFD will transform the way that users interact with Brook. Making it easier, faster, and more convenient for those able to self-care will allow us to protect valuable staff time for people who need face-to-face interventions.  

Brook is committed to involving young people in the design and delivery of all new products and services. To inform the development of the DFD, from July to September 2020, we invested in a digital ‘Discovery Phase’ for the entire project, to find out about young people’s experiences of accessing care and why sexual health services do not always meet their needs. 

We always knew that safeguarding would be one of the most challenging points of innovation when building our DFD. This is because safeguarding is not an isolated intervention, but a core component of every interaction that Brook staff have with young and/or vulnerable people.  

We knew that digitising an intervention would pose challenges to safeguarding – such as losing face to face interaction and the opportunity for clinical staff to exercise their professional curiosity at the first point of contact. We recognised one of the challenges would be collecting personal information and that many people would be reluctant to share this with us. That said, the prospect of creating innovative digital pathways that would enable us safeguard even more young/ vulnerable people, was a challenge that we were willing to accept! 

The DFD project is being led by our small, highly skilled and experienced digital team. Thanks to the safeguarding training that forms part of Brook’s induction, we hold good awareness of what safeguarding is and why it is so crucial.  

Supported by ongoing consultation with our frontline colleagues, we worked with our technical partner, Mindwave, to make sure they felt confident about Brook’s robust safeguarding practices and procedures. This enabled their UX designers to incorporate ideas about how we could identify and highlight safeguarding concerns from the outset. 

Internally, through close collaboration with colleagues in clinical services and operations, we identified two main elements that we needed to prioritise in relation to safeguarding: 

  1. To encourage people to tell us if they are at risk and/or in need of support.  

This involved developing a series of pathways within the STI home sampling kit order process that captured the data at different points. The pathways are structured to make it easy for people to share their information. They key to this was developing messaging that translates complex concepts into accessible, meaningful copy. We also worked to the ICO Age-appropriate design code to ensure that how and why we capture this data is transparent, and that young people understand how we may use the data to safeguard them.  

  1. To make it easy for Brook staff to identify and prioritise those people who self-identified as a safeguarding concern.  

Brook’s new online portal ‘The Staff Hub’ manages requests for testing and we have designed it so that safeguarding flags are clearly visible as soon as you log into the system. Our clinical staff can see why the client might be at risk, such as: 

  • Being made to feel scared or uncomfortable by the person/s with whom they have been having sexual contact 
  • Often using alcohol or drugs before having sex 
  • Feeling down or suffering from feelings of depression 
  • Having a partner that is significantly older than them 

This enables our clinical staff to plan their follow up communication accordingly and seek support from the local safeguarding lead if required.  

Moving forward 

Brook’s safeguarding measures have been reviewed by relevant stakeholders across the organisation, including service staff who will be using the system and contacting at-risk young people. A safeguarding impact assessment (documenting all potential risks and the mitigations we have implemented to reduce risk) has been created and signed off by our Designated Safeguarding Lead. 

Our intention is to keep a close eye on how effective our systems and processes are at managing safeguarding concerns, with data and feedback from staff and clients being captured throughout the pilot phase.  

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