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Fewer sexual health clinic hours in Suffolk as service moves online to save cash

PUBLISHED: 10:51 02 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:51 02 December 2017

Suffolk's sexual health clinics are reducing their hours as much of the service moves online. Stock image. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Suffolk's sexual health clinics are reducing their hours as much of the service moves online. Stock image. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Sexual health services in Suffolk are being scaled back due to county council cuts, it has been revealed.

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The number of days and hours of clinic operation by iCaSH Suffolk will be reducing and a new online service is set to be introduced, officials have confirmed.

Tibbs Pinter, chief executive of Young People’s Health Project (4YP), which used to provide sexual health services in Ipswich, said the changes were “really worrying”.

Without face to face interaction, underlying problems affecting the young people seeking sexual health support could be missed, Mr Pinter said.

He added: “I do understand there are constraints on budgets but I think what we need to do as a charity sector now is think how we can pull together to support people under-25, particularly around sexual health.

“If the service isn’t there we need to think about how we can provide it because teenage pregnancy isn’t going to go away.”

“We need to ensure there’s good advice and a supportive service for young people and that continues.”

Mr Pinter said his goal next year was to find a way 4YP could offer sexual health services again without funding from the NHS.

He added: “It would be to compliment not contradict the health service because I know they are stretched.”

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said the organisation had not been informed about the changes.

He added: “The impact of the reduction in service hours is of the most concern because the demand for the service continues to exist.

“Naturally, a new online service will be helpful in minimising impact and perhaps also in helping people to self-manage their own care.

“That should be encouraged but it does not mean an impersonal approach will be suited to every person, particularly given the nature of the services affected.

“Also, the variable nature of broadband provision in the county is a concern when there is a reliance on the internet for accessing care.”

In a joint statement, Suffolk County Council and iCaSH Suffolk said: “Patients will continue to be able to access the same level of high quality care and by making testing even quicker and more convenient, we hope to increase access and choice for patients.”

HIV services commissioned by NHS England are unaffected by these proposed changes.

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