I wish I had known about the government’s 5-year sexual health strategy before this year, it seems too late, but I have to believe that the voice of reason will pierce through the noise of this autocratic reform.
• On 20th June 2019, the Hertfordshire County Council published their 5-year sexual health strategy featuring “Centers of Excellence” to introduce what was said to be “high-quality sexual health services for our residents” by Cabinet Member for Public Health and Prevention, Tim Hutchings.
• The Centers of Excellence will be located in Stevenage, Watford and Hatfield.
• It is faster to get to London than to get to the Hertfordshire Sexual Health clinics for a lot of towns within Hertfordshire.
• East to West public transport across Hertfordshire is seriously lacking, having roughly routed the towns public links to each other, there is a minimum of 1 hour of public transport for most towns in Hertfordshire with Bishops Stortford seeming to be the worst for links to the Centers of Excellence. This check on Google Maps doesn’t include the time it will take residents to get from their homes to the stations and from the stations to the clinics. If we allow 15 minutes either side, it’s looking like an average/minimum of 1hr 30mins for residents outside of the towns with clinics.
Speaking from experience
I visited Bishops Stortford’s sexual health clinic around 6 months ago, having researched the closest clinic to my location that used to be Hertford but had moved to be Bishops Stortford. Quite a while out of the way from my home but it was the closest clinic and as I am able to drive it was possible for me to get there. If I wasn’t able to drive, I wouldn’t have got there as the journey would have taken an extra hour and I wouldn’t have been able to take that time off of work. On one sunny Friday, I stopped by for a checkup, little did I know that this was going to be their last day running from that hospital. Stevenage would be the other closest location to Hertford but having visited there on a Friday prior at the opening time and being turned away as they were at capacity already that isn’t a feasible option either.
My questions to Tim and team
• What were the capacities of the sexual health clinics before the reform vs what it will be after the Centers of Excellence are in action?
• What are the statistics on clinical sexual health checks across Hertfordshire in terms of a) average checks per day across Hertfordshire’s clinics, b) the outliers of checks per day, c) history of the amount of sexual health checks and projected amounts over the past 5-years (that I am assuming you used to inform your decision for the strategy)?
• Will the home kits be available for every postcode within Hertfordshire and what will the limit be per day?
I am sure that a lot of research and consultation went into this strategy, but it doesn’t seem practically thought out for convenience. There has been highlights that the ‘home kits’ will be more readily available, but this isn’t the case yet. It isn’t as easy as it seems to get one of these kits, the funding only covers a certain amount of kits per day and there will be many who miss out on these. There are others who will be unable to receive the kits as, at the moment, there are certain postcodes that are unable to get the kits. Even if a person is able to get the kits, taking blood tests from home is terrifying (from personal experience) and potentially dangerous.
The introduction of this new strategy seems more about funding than logistical practicality. I believe there is room for both to be present, so let’s reform this reform.
Just a finishing note, I have no personal agenda with this. The new Hatfield center will be extremely convenient to where I work in Potters Bar, as I drive, and I am soon moving to Stevenage which has its own center too. I hit the postcode lottery, but there are some of our local residents who won’t have and will find it so difficult to get to a clinic that they may not be able to be tested.
Hertfordshire County Council: Please have a look into this, and please consider these points before moving forward beyond the point of no return.
Locals: I ask that anyone who sees this shares their experience with the previous sexual health services, the current transition phase, and what the future plans will mean for you.
Started by: Emma Curtis
This ePetition ran from 31/12/2019 to 25/02/2020 and has now finished.
307 people signed this ePetition.