Anger at plan to axe Camden sexual health centre
PUBLISHED: 12:28 07 January 2016 | UPDATED: 12:28 07 January 2016
NHS Trust proposals to close a sexual health centre in Camden have been described as “crude and disappointing”.
The Central and North West London Trust has published a consultation recommending that The Margaret Pyke Centre should be closed due to “unprecedented financial challenges”.
The Wicklow Street centre opened in 1969 and provides healthcare for female inmates, homeless women and commercial sex workers, in addition to 400 clinic patients each week.
Cllr Sally Gimson, Camden Council cabinet member responsible for health, described the debate as an “important feminist issue”.
She said: “We need a comprehensive contraceptive service for women and I have not seen this proposed by the trust.
“Camden is a progressive borough. It is very important that women have access to contraception across the board and my fear is that, if the centre closes, this will not happen and the expertise will be lost.
“I would like to see a consultation that has clinicians and patients at its centre.
“I am disappointed that there are only two options and they are both crude choices.”
The two choices presented are to leave the centre open but with diminished staff and services, or to close it completely.
The trust recommends the latter, arguing that it “will cause the fewest redundancies while allowing the same level of activity and quality as currently offered”.
A petition set up against the plans has more than 6,500 signatures and petitioner Dr Jayne Kavanagh said frustration stems from the “lack of transparency” of the consultation.
Dr Kavanagh, who has worked at the centre since 1997, said: “My colleagues are absolutely devastated that this fantastic service is going to be closed. “We feel as if we have all been kept in the dark because they have only offered two options and have not provided a constructive option,” she said.
Chief executive of the trust, Claire Murdoch, said the decision had been “analysed and agonised over”. She said: “We believe our solution adds up to a future of high quality services and we will not allow financial challenges to derail what is outstanding.”
Critics fear the closure of the centre will put more strain on hospitals and instead suggest a more integrated women’s health service.
Dr Kavanagh said: “There are some symptoms that do not require a hospital and I think women would prefer to be seen in a friendly community setting.
“What we should do is collaborate with the Clinical Commissioning Groups to see if we could bring in other services – such as holistic services – and use the building to its maximum potential.
“It would be collaborative, innovative and creative healthcare.”
The consultation results will be presented to the trust’s board in May.