Lib Dems expose STD clinic postcode lottery

August 24, 2006 12:00 AM

Patients needing an appointment at a sexual health clinic in East Anglia are being forced to wait an average of seven days according to new research published by the Lib Dems. Only six out of 17 clinics surveyed in the region provide appointments within the Government target time of 48 hours at a time when there are more sexually acquired infections such as Chlamydia.

The survey looked at 149 GUM (Genito-Urinary Medicine) clinics across England and found huge regional differences with some areas providing all appointments within five days and others patients having to wait two weeks or more.

More than half of the clinics (53pc) covered by the East of England Strategic Health Authority offered appointments within five days.

And three clinics (18pc) had to ask patients to wait more than a fortnight for an appointment - indicating a postcode lottery for patients.

Other findings included clinic opening hours being limited and at irregular times, restricting access to those people working during the day. On average, sexual health clinics were open for between 20 hours and four days per week.

Liberal Democrat Health Spokeswoman, Sandra Gidley MP, said: "This is shocking evidence that there are stark inequalities in sexual health services across the country. Sexual health clinics do not have the resources vitally needed to tackle the spiralling rate of sexually transmitted infections."

Liz Thornton, Norfolk's sexual health co-ordinator, said: "To put this into context, waiting lists at these clinics have built up because there is more demand.

"There are more sexually acquired infections such as Chlamydia and not enough money has been going into sexual health services but if you look at PCT deficits this is to be expected.

"Over the last year the N&N and the PCT has worked very hard to look at how best to provide clinics and have reduced time considerably. It is not an easy thing to do.

"There is not enough money to put enough staff into the GUM clinics to account for the extra patients. But everything is improving and the Chlamydia screening programme is now up and running in Norfolk and it will be rolled out over the coming months."