Anger as calls to delay clinic’s closure are rejected
CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save a sexual health clinic have vowed to hold Surrey County Council (SCC) to account should any harm come to patients as a result of its decision not to delay its closure for six months.
The Blanche Heriot Unit (BHU) at St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey, which serves more than 15,000 patients annually, is due to close at the end of September, with services being run at different locations across the county by new contractors Central North West London NHS Trust (CNWL).
On September 4 SCC’s Adult and Health Select Committee rejected calls for the sexual health unit to remain open for an extended period. Opponents to the proposals say lives will be put at risk should the changes go ahead as planned.
Campaign group Healthwatch Surrey, which was present at the meeting, criticised the manner in which the consultation process had been handled.
In a letter to committee chairman Ken Gulati, Heathwatch chief executive Kate Scribbins said: “The engagement and consultation with service users around changes to sexual health services in Surrey has not been adequate.”
Campaigner Stephen Fash said: “The plans are in disarray.
“We have been calling for a proper, sensible and robust scrutiny of the plans and we are not going away.
“We will continue to educate and salvage what we can from this wreckage and we intend to hold our representatives to account should any harm come to our patients as a result of these changes.”
Ashford and St Peter’s Hospital (ASPH) says it has split BHU patients into three groups: walk-in sexual health service patients, HIV patients with a range of conditions varying in complexity, and patients with other genital conditions including pain and skin conditions.
Under the plans, the hospital said the first two groups will be transferred to the new service and the third group, of around 700 patients, will still have their care coordinated by ASPH and would “most likely” continue to be seen at St Peter’s Hospital.
At a patient meeting on August 9, CNWL said it will provide three main clinics across the county in Woking, Redhill and Guildford (Buryfields).
There will also be additional services at Leatherhead Hospital, at Epsom Clinic and in Runnymede and Spelthorne - although the locations in these final two boroughs have not yet been decided.
During the most recent meeting, SCC said it would “establish a task group to review the implementation phase, consultation process and lessons learnt from the commissioning of sexual health and HIV services, with a view to informing future commissioning of services”.
An online petition, calling for BHU to remain open, has gathered more than 2,700 signatures.