Recent research has shown the increasing difficulties in the ability to access sexual health clinics, particularly for those who are in urgent need of treatment.
This has shown a significant drop in the recommended standards which state that patients should be offered an appointment within 48 hours of making an enquiry or contacting the service. With this having worsened over the past few years, it has also been confirmed that women are less likely to be offered an appointment than men. Clinics across Wales and Northern Ireland are reported as the worst but the biggest and sharpest decline is seen from clinics in England.
With the increasing demand for sexual health clinics, researchers set out to see if clinic accessibility met the UK standards set by The British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH). Which states that 98% of patients should be offered an appointment within 48 hours of contacting the service. In January 2014, experts sent out questionnaires to lead clinicians of all 248 GUM clinics in the UK, which asked about appointment times.
The next stage involved researchers posing as patients and mystery shopping clinics by contacting them with urgent and non-urgent sexual health issues, they rang 220 clinics to request an appointment. This was then repeated the following year but also included mystery shopper visits to a random sample of clinics which allowed them to check in on waiting times and same-day appointment availability.
The survey responses demonstrated how a selection of clinicians who said that all of their patients were offered an appointment within 48 hours fell from over 76% in 2014 to just over 67% in 2015. However, the majority of clinicians expected that patients would be offered an appointment within 48 hours of making contact.
2014 showed that the totally number of calls making contact with clinics was 1025 and in 2015 the figure was 1056. When taking a further look into the data, it showed that 95.5% of clinics offered patients with symptoms an appointment within 48 hours of contact, which is below the recommended BASHH standards.
But by 2015, this had fallen to under 91%, with an increase in women requiring appointments, dropping from 96% in 2014 to 90% in 2015. The figures for clinics in England stated a drop from 96% in 2014 to 91% in 2015. Those patients without symptoms who were offered an appointment within 48 hours rose from under 51% in 2014 to 74.5% in 2015.
What’s more is that half of these appointments were not booked in and were an invitation to attend a walk-in service and up to 1 in 4 patients were unable to book any fixed appointments. The proportion of men with no symptoms increased from over 58% to just under 91% in 2015 with the increase being smaller among women and rising from 49% in 2014 to 59.6% in 2015.
The number of patients being turned away from same-day appointments was low and the average waiting time was stated as 1 hour.
Overall this study demonstrated how, whilst the majority of UK clinics offer consultations within two working days, there has been significant declines in accessible services for patients with symptoms. One main concern raised is that women seem to have more issues accessing services than men which is surprising due to most GUM and contraception services traditionally see mostly women.
Another strong message gained from this research is the importance of ensuring clinics are freely accessible to support with reducing the rates of sexually transmitted infections.
At Broadgate GP we provide same day sexual health screenings, our services include self-testing, or a test with your partner and we will provide quick results, which could be later that day.
Whether you’ve had an unfortunate encounter or you’re at the beginning of a new relationship, having a sexual health screening should be a main priority to ensure your partners and your own health. Our sexual health clinic offers confidential checks tailored to your requirements and symptoms, they are discreet and totally confidential and we use only the moth up to date methods to ensure your health and wellbeing.
Both male and female STI testing are available from our clinic in London and we can provide all the requirements to suit your needs. For more information contact our team.