Sexual health services harder to access in the UK, study finds

09 May 2017

It has become more difficult to access sexual health services in the UK, new research has suggested.


A study of 220 of the UK’s 248 genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinics revealed in many areas access has fallen below the recommended standards that 98% of patients should be seen to within 48 hours of contacting the service.

But in 2015, fewer than 91% of researchers posing as patients with symptoms could get appointments within this period.

And the researchers purporting to have no symptoms were only granted appointments within 48 hours in less than 75% of cases.

While GUM clinics in Wales and Northern Ireland offered the lowest overall access, the sharpest decline has occurred in England.

Lead author Elizabeth Foley of the Royal South Hants Hospital expressed concern that ‘patients will go undiagnosed and pass their infection on to other people’.

She said the situation has deteriorated since 2010, when the 98% target set by the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) stopped being mandatory.

Another factor she cited is the transfer of GUM clinic funding from the NHS to local authorities, adding that a quarter of all clinics are reporting a 20% drop in funding.

Elizabeth Carlin, president of BASHH, said the research provides strong support for the reintroduction of ‘a mandatory 48-hour access target’.