by Claire Taylor

Mark Clune1, Efejiro Ashano1, John White1,


Free online STI testing aligned with NHS services has become available in most areas of England in recent years. Many private online services offer similar tests, but for a price.


We analysed data collected from a pan-UK online test provider for >70 NHS services (SH) as well as their paid (TM) service to compare their respective users.


Data was collected from the year 2022, with a total of 968,517 users requesting a test kit from the free services and 15,185 users ordering from the paid TM service.

The average age of TM users was 31 vs. 29 for SH users. More users aged 25 and over used the TM service (73.6%) than those using the SH services (62.0%). Male users (50.0%) were more likely to use TM services than those that used SH services (39.2%), while female users (58.2%) were more likely to opt for the free services than the paid TM service (49.8%). Users in the least deprived areas (51.6%) used the paid TM service more than those who used free SH services (37.1%). No difference in the average health, education, employment or income score of paid and free users was observed. Additionally, a higher percentage of users who use paid services ordered tests between Monday and Friday (80.0%) and between 7AM and 1PM (42.5%) compared to those that utilized the free SH services (77.1% and 38.1%, respectively).


This study suggests that users who opt for the paid TM service are more likely to be older, male, and from less deprived areas. Possible explanations for these findings include the convenience of the paid service, perceived higher quality of the service, and the perception that the paid service may provide quicker results. Health commissioners in the UK should consider these findings when designing future testing programs.

About the author:

Claire is the Senior Digital Marketing Executive at Preventx.