Introduction Since 2004, DH guidance has recommended that GUM clinics in England should endeavour to see patients within 48 hours of initial contact. Recent changes in service commissioning and the wider adoption of competitive tendering since 2013 has led to concerns about maintaining 48-hour access.
Aim To establish whether there is a relationship between the tendering history of a GUM clinic and its accessibility.
Methods Postal questionnaires regarding tendering history were sent to lead clinicians of all 262 GUM clinics in the UK. Only questionnaires which were returned within a two-month window were analysed. Each clinic with a returned questionnaire was telephoned eight times by male and female researchers posing as patients with symptomatic and asymptomatic presentations. The researchers asked to be seen as soon as possible and recorded whether this fell within 48 hours.
Results 67 clinics (25.6%) returned their questionnaires on time. A chi-square test found no statistically significant difference between clinics tendered within the last five years (n=49) and the rest (n=18), regarding 48-hour access (86.5% and 86.2% respectively, p=0.916). Interestingly, 88% of contacts with clinics still undergoing a tender resulted in a 48-hour appointment compared with 100% of contacts with clinics which completed the process 3–5 years ago. However, this was not statistically significant.
Discussion The negative effect of tendering on accessibility seems to be overstated. Moreover, if this effect does exist, it seems more pronounced during the actual tender, followed by an apparent boost in access. A larger study may be required to confirm this.
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