Introduction Following the NHS Act 2012, Sexual Health services (SHs) have been radically reshaped. Anecdotally many places report problems in maintaining open access services, particularly since local authorities became responsible for commissioning SHs as of 1 April 2013.
Aims To assess whether SH walk-in clinics can accommodate symptomatic patients and if there is a difference in waiting time between male and female patients. To determine whether the expectations of lead clinicians working in SHs concur with the experience of front line services.
Methods A postal questionnaire was sent to 262 UK SH clinics to assess lead clinicians’ predicted waiting times. Four researchers; 2 males and 2 females attended clinics as ‘patients’ reporting symptoms suggestive of an acute STI, clinic waiting time was recorded. 50% of clinics in each of the 17 BASHH branches were visited. SPSS v23 was used to analyse the data.
Results Of the 131 clinics visited, 97.7% could accommodate symptomatic ‘patients’ on the same day. The observed waiting time ranged from 5-285 minutes. The median wait was 54 minutes respectively. There was no significant difference in waiting time between male and female ‘patients’ (p=0.110). 68/262 questionnaires were returned; 31 were from clinics which were visited. 13% of clinics underestimated the walk-in waiting time, while 23% over-estimated the walk-in waiting time, when compared with actual walk-in waiting time established during clinic visits.
Discussion Despite strains on SHs, most clinics visited could accommodate patients on the same day. However, there is discrepancy between lead clinicians’ expectations and services provided.
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