SEXUAL health services in Leeds are to be put out to tender in a bid to streamline and improve provision across the city.
Current services – which cost the authority £6.6m and deal with 56,000 appointments a year – “do not fully meet local needs” and there has seen a surge in complaints about some departments, according to a damning new report.
Issues include long waiting times, continuing high unplanned pregnancy rates and a pool of undiagnosed sexually transmitted infections (STI) and HIV in the community coupled with a lack of efficient screening services.
Any new service would be completely integrated, offering contraception and HIV or STI testing in one visit on a “one provider, one appointment” basis. It would also include a new city centre hub, with additional clinics in areas of the city with the highest rates of poor sexual health.
A report presented to council decision-makers says: “The sexual health services in Leeds have never been out to tender and do not fully meet local needs.
“The new, integrated, sexual health services will...lead to better health outcomes by reducing unintended conceptions and by reducing the amount of sexually transmitted infections in the population.”
The report adds that since 2010/11, health bosses have received “an increase in the number of service user complaints” regarding accessing the general sexual health clinics, adding that “long waiting times are an ongoing challenge”.
The current service is also difficult to manouevre, says the report, with patients expected to navigate various layers of services, and problems with STI testing and contraception not being available together in one location across the city.
“Our ambition is to improve the sexual health needs of the Leeds population,” the report says, adding that “a number of providers” have already expressed an interest in tendering for an “integrated sexual health services contract”.
The tender comes after Leeds city council took over the commissioning of public health services from the former primary care trust as part a national overhaul of NHS management.
That overhaul includes a new national model of integrating HIV/STI testing, STI treatment and contraception.
The sexual health clinic at Leeds hospitals has previously been criticised for failing to see patients quickly enough. In 2010, NHS bosses ordered an improvement after hearing that only 43 per cent of patients were given an appointment within 48 hours. Heads of NHS Leeds, which at that time funded healthcare, were told that unfilled vacancies, maternity and sick leave had left the service with staffing gaps.