Maintaining patient access to GUM clinics: is it compatible with appointments?
- 1Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Royal Free and University College Medical School, Mortimer Market Centre, Off Capper Street, London WC1E 6AU, UK
- 2Patrick Clements Clinic, 2nd floor, West Wing Outpatients Department, North West London Hospitals NHS Trust, Central Middlesex Hospital, Acton Lane, London NW10 7NS, UK
- 3Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences and Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, University College London, London, UK
- Correspondence to: Dr Jackie Cassell, Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Royal Free and University College Medical School, Mortimer Market Centre, off Capper Street, London WC1E GAU, UK;
- Accepted 14 October 2002
Objectives: To determine whether a planned change from a walk-in service to a system in which 35% of appointments were prebooked and 65% obtained on the day, preserved access to the service for patients with, or at risk of, STIs. To describe patients’ attitudes and behaviours in relation to accessing the clinic, and relate these to disease status and other epidemiological factors. To evaluate the effect of the change on clinical outcomes. To develop a tool for evaluating access to services.
Method: A natural experiment was studied, in which a cohort of patients attending just before the change in appointments policy (phase 1) was compared with a cohort following the change (phase 2). A questionnaire was administered to all new patients, and linked to disaggregated epidemiological and demographic data and case notes.
Results: The age, ethnic, symptom status, and disease mix of the clinic did not change significantly, and more patients were seen in phase 2. Time from telephoning to being seen did not change. Under 25s and Afro-Caribbeans used prebooked appointments less than others. Partner notification improved and HIV testing rates increased, while staff preferred the new system.
Conclusion: This specific appointment system in a GUM clinic preserved access for high risk groups. However, this may not generalise to systems with a higher proportion of prebooked appointments.