Sexual health services in Lewisham had nothing to fear from the audit office’s stinging attack on the national Chlamydia programme on Monday, after NHS figures revealed the trust had once again succeeded in screening more young people than anywhere else in the country.
35 per cent of the borough’s population of 15-24 year olds have been tested for the sexually-transmitted disease which lacks symptoms, and can cause infertility if it is left untreated.
The figure far exceeds that of neighboring boroughs Tower Hamlets and Croydon, both of which have consistently failed to meet the 17 per cent screening coverage target set by the government in 2004.
This week the National Audit Office branded the £150 million programme “a waste of time” and money, after their independent report showed the “fragmented approach” of many primary care trusts meant they had failed to implement the tests properly and had screened insufficient numbers to make the scheme worthwhile.
Yet Lewisham’s Chlamydia screening co-ordinator Louise Pollard said their trust had managed to avoid such pitfalls by embedding the programme into the family planning clinic they were already offering, renaming the service so that it would be more accessible for young men and teenagers.
The result, a series of walk-in Community and Sexual Health Services (CASH) with extended opening hours, are responsible for over 80 per cent of Lewisham’s impressive screening coverage.
“We’re friendly, confidential and most importantly accessible”, said an administrative staff member at Waldron Health Centre, Lewisham’s most popular CASH.
“In other boroughs CASH hours are more restricted, or you have to book to see your GP. Often people come here from other boroughs to be tested – it’s just easier for them, although we do encourage people to go to one on their area”.
Yesterday Louise Pollard stressed that whilst the team felt they were delivering a good service that was value for money, they would not be complacent.
“Modelling shows the more young people we cover, the more the disease rates will come down. Staff and services really need to keep going for it”.
The test is a simple, painless urine sample or swab, and can be taken at home, at your GP or at your local CASH.