Delays and closures of clinics putting people at risk
The closures of six sexual health clinics in and around London is putting patients at risk. This is because, not only is there more pressure on the existing facilities but there are also huge delays on online services.
A self-testing scheme, which can be accessed online, was supposed to be rolled out to 27 of the 32 boroughs in London from May. However, there are still major problems and it's now many months behind schedule, with a full roll out not expected until 2018 now.
The clinic closures were a decisive effort to switch from face-to-face consultations to online services, but it now appears that demand has outweighed the available resources and many patients are not being able to access the help they need.
Dr Elizabeth Carlin, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), which represents specialist doctors in the field, told the Guardian: “We are hearing about emerging evidence that shows patients are being turned away from sexual health services in London because of huge pressures clinics are facing."
This is particularly concerning because levels of life-changing STIs like HIV are beginning to rise again.
Experts have said there is a direct link between access to services and rates of infection, so reports that patients are being turned away from help is worrying.
London already has the highest rates of STIs in England and this latest strain on services could mean that this situation could worsen, potentially putting many people at risk.
Preventx, which has been given the contract for the 27 boroughs for the self-testing kits delivery service, suggested they may be streamlining the process.
They said the online service would be "the front door" for people with a single web address providing patients with information about sexual health and directing them to the most appropriate service for them.