After a series of closures to sexual health clinics across London, people are currently being turned away from the services without the care they need.
Among others, the sexual health clinics at the Royal Free hospital in Hampstead, the Clare Simpson Clinic at Barnet hospital, and two clinics run by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust have all been closed.
For a while now, there’s been a planned switch to online services, which allow you to order a home-testing kit online rather than going in for a consultation, to cut costs and free up clinic appointments. This sounds great - apart from the fact that the online services are months behind schedule.
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The new online scheme was meant to be rolled out across London at the start of May, but won’t be in use until the New Year at the very earliest. The online testing is part of the shake-up of the London sexual health programme, which councils hope will modernise sexual healthcare and cope with the ever-growing demand.
So, sexual health clinic closures coupled with the inaccessibility of the self-testing kits means there could be an increase of STI rates in the capital – not good news given that London already has the highest rate of sexually transmitted infections in the country.
If people leave their infections untreated due to the fact it’s near on impossible to get either an appointment or a self-testing kit, they’re much more likely to pass on infections and suffer from complications, potentially developing infertility.
Sexual health consultant, Dr Paul Lister has said that the rates of HIV infection could be about to increase: “Rates of HIV have gone down significantly in recent years. So if we reduce access to services, as is happening across London, we are doing that at our peril because history repeats itself and we see a direct link between access to services and rates of infection and the potential consequences of that.”
Clinics are already under a lot of pressure, it's becoming even harder to get an appointment, and the new online services still aren’t up and running to provide some kind of let-up. Things really aren’t looking good.
It seems like the e-service and self-sampling kits will be a great way of freeing up the face to face appointments for those with more serious and complex problems, but it’s all about timing. With fewer clinics meaning it’s harder to get an appointment, and the fact that the online services won't be up and running until January, from now until New Year, it's pretty much the worst possible time for Londoners to get an STI.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.