CONCERNS have been raised over the lack of appointments available at a sexual health clinic in Southend.

The new service at Thamesgate House, Victoria Avenue, was launched by the council, Southend Hospital and Provide in April claiming to deliver improved sexual health services

However, patients told how they’re being offered home testing kits for STIs or appointments at Orsett Hospital if they want to be seen sooner than two months’ time.

Amy Harpington, 30, of Hamstel Road, Southend, told the Echo: “I just wanted to pop in and get a check up so I headed over to Kingsley Ward Centre in Southend, to find it was permanently closed.

“I had a little look online and tracked down the number which put me through to Southend Sexual Health Service where I waited on hold for over an hour to be told that the next available appointment with a nurse wouldn’t be until November. I was then told if I wanted STI testing I could request a home kit, although this would only test for a few STIs like Chlamydia, not HIV/Aids.

“So, I took the November appointment offered to me, but it’s very worrying to think that those who need urgent treatment would have to wait so long.”

Another patient, who did not want to be named, said: “I have the IUD coil as contraception which lasts five years. I have had mine in for almost five-and-a-half years so I called the number I found online to book an appointment to have it changed.

“After a long wait to even speak to a person, I was told I couldn’t be seen until October. When I asked why the wait was so long, I was told there was a huge backlog since the change over to the new service.

“I asked why I couldn’t be seen sooner and I was offered an appointment at Orsett. I think it’s totally unacceptable. Considering the high teen pregnancy rate we have, and the amount of drug users at risk of HIV, being left for two months without advice or treatment is shocking.”

A joint spokesman for Southend Hospital and Provide said: “To help people with an urgent need to access the service, we have introduced an appointment-only service and allocation of appointments is dependent on the needs of the service user.

“Due to demand, some appointments for non-urgent treatment – particularly long-acting reversible contraception – can have an extended wait due to availability of appointments and popularity.”