Assessing the impact of online postal self-sampling for sexually transmitted infections on health inequalities, access to care and clinical outcomes in the UK: protocol for ASSIST, a realist evaluation
Gibbs J., Howarth AR., Sheringham J., Jackson LJ., Wong G., Copas A., Crundwell DJ., Mercer CH., Mohammed H., Ross J., Sullivan AK., Murray E., Burns FM.
IntroductionThe past decade has seen a rapid increase in the volume and proportion of testing for sexually transmitted infections that are accessed via online postal self-sampling services in the UK. ASSIST (Assessing the impact of online postal self-sampling for sexually transmitted infections on health inequalities, access to care and clinical outcomes in the UK) aims to assess the impact of these services on health inequalities, access to care, and clinical and economic outcomes, and to identify the factors that influence the implementation and sustainability of these services.Methods and analysisASSIST is a mixed-methods, realist evaluated, national study with an in-depth focus of three case study areas (Birmingham, London and Sheffield). An impact evaluation, economic evaluation and implementation evaluation will be conducted. Findings from these evaluations will be analysed together to develop programme theories that explain the outcomes. Data collection includes quantitative data (using national, clinic based and online datasets); qualitative interviews with service users, healthcare professionals and key stakeholders; contextual observations and documentary analysis. STATA 17 and NVivo will be used to conduct the quantitative and qualitative analysis, respectively.Ethics and disseminationThis study has been approved by South Central – Berkshire Research Ethics Committee (ref: 21/SC/0223). All quantitative data accessed and collected will be anonymous. Participants involved with qualitative interviews will be asked for informed consent, and data collected will be anonymised.Our dissemination strategy has been developed to access and engage key audiences in a timely manner and findings will be disseminated via the study website, social media, in peer-reviewed scientific journals, at research conferences, local meetings and seminars and at a concluding dissemination and networking event for stakeholders.