Shake-up in sexual health is unsafe, experts say
Leading doctors have warned about cost cuts being made to sexual health services in London, saying it could put people at risk.
The initiative, which hopes to decrease spending across three boroughs in the city, is due to come into effect from next month but could lead to an increase in STIs, HIV and unintended pregnancies.
This is according to a letter signed by 14 experts in sexual health from St George's Hospital in London, which has been obtained and published in part by the Guardian.
Addressed to the NHS and members of the local council, the authors say the attempts to save money are “unsafe, unworkable and unsustainable”.
There are great concerns about how Central London community healthcare (CLCH) will provide the specialist care needed for people experiencing sexual health concerns, including HIV diagnosis.
They write: "We are writing to express our serious concern regarding the staffing and service models proposed by CLCH for the sexual health hub in Wandsworth and highlight a need for an immediate review of approach.
We are of the opinion that the current proposals are unsafe, unworkable and unsustainable.”
Staff numbers will be decreased by 30 per cent and there is a planned closure of a long-established clinic at St George's. Currently some 29.000 patients are seen at the facility in Wandsworth.
The experts are concerned that this would mean people are unable to get counselling and other specialist care across Wandsworth, Richmond and Merton. It comes as places all across the country are having their sexual health services put under pressure, with the Local Government Association saying it had reached "tipping point".
However the CLCH has promised to meet demand by encouraging more people to test themselves with a free kit instead of visiting a specialist clinic.
Instead of running face-to-face services, it will focus on “self-care and self-sampling" for patients needing its support.
The best way to prevent STIs and unintended pregnancies is to practice safe sex, while regular check-ups can ensure that any potential problems are caught early.