Testing: Digital services will allow people to carry out tests at home, but the rollout has been delayed.
Up to 600 people per week are being turned away from oversubscribed sexual health clinics at one of London’s NHS trusts, an expert has warned. Dr Mark Lawton of the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV said the data showing hundreds of people are being turned away from clinic at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust alone are the “tip of the iceberg”.
“The figures don’t count those who didn’t get through the doors because they were closed,” he told the Standard. Dr Lawton warned of a crisis as a shortfall in services puts Londoners at risk of STIs including syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia and unwanted pregnancies. “The phrase we are using is “perfect storm”, he said.
His comments came after a series of closures of central London clinics, including three of the six run by Guy's and St Thomas' which were shut in 2017. STI diagnoses in London are 79 per cent higher than anywhere else in the country, according to figures from Public Health England.
"But people don't stand up and say 'I had gonorrhoea and I had to wait to be seen for four days'. They just keep quiet."
More than 11,000 people were turned away between April and September last year by the three remaining GSTT clinics - a number that has persisted despite the trust expanding opening hours, he said. Data also shows that since April 2017 the number of STIs diagnosed in GSTT centres doubled, with the only diagnoses going down being HIV (because of treatment as prevention) and anogenital warts (due to the HPV vaccine).
Closures have taken place across central London and remaining clinics across the capital are facing unmanageable demands. Sexual health clinic the Dean Street Express in Soho told patients on its website: "Our service is currently massively over-subscribed due to the closure of several other clinics in London."
As many as 1,500 people every day are trying to book just 300 available slots, logging on at 7pm when they are snapped up within minutes, it added. The problem comes from public funding cuts at local councils, which are responsible for commissioning sexual health services, made in 2016. To cater to changing demands health professionals planned to shift the focus of sexual health services from face-to-face consultations to an online service with postal testing.