Contraception, genitourinary (GUM), and HIV clinics are harder to access in Surrey and are less visible after the sexual health services were taken over by an NHS Trust, a councillor has claimed.

The contract for providing Surrey’s sexual health services was awarded to Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) – the only bidder for the contract – in September last year.

The Trust took over the services from April 1.

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There are now three centralised hubs in Guildford, Woking and Redhill, which offer a full array of sexual health services. These are complemented by clinical outreach services at Leatherhead Hospital and the Epsom Clinic in Church Street, but both of these ‘spoke clinics’ operate only five hours per week.

From March: Worried Liberal Democrat councillors launch petition to save Surrey's sexual health clinics

Liberal Democrat councillor for Mole Valley Claire Malcolmson had launched a petition calling for the services to be protected amid fears clinics could be shut down.

Since the commencement of the contract she has spoken to several young people who do not know how and where they can access services now, she told the Epsom Guardian.

A CNWL spokeswoman confirmed patients had faced delays and experienced difficulties in accrssing information online, and apologised to anyone affected.

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“There is a transition problem, obviously,” Cllr Malcolmson (pictured above) said.

“Reading between the lines, I think the Trust is dealing with something much larger than what they had expected.

“They are trying very hard, but it’s not working.”

Vicky Padbury, a specialist sexual health nurse with more than 30 years’ experience had described limiting the services young people can access as “short-sighted and dangerous” earlier this year.

Cllr Malcolmson added that since April 1 explanations of where patients can access services previously offered at Leatherhead Hospital, for example, have not been visible enough.

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Leatherhead Hospital

She said that young people and those who work traditional nine-to-five jobs were struggling to attend sessions at the clinics. At Leatherhead Hospital, the sessions run from 10am to 12.30pm on Mondays and Fridays, and at the Epsom Clinic, sessions – which started on June 12 – run from 3.30pm to 6pm on Mondays and Wednesdays.

A spokesperson for CNWL, which is running the new contract for sexual health services, said: “The sexual health service was organised to respond to need and we are confident that we will reach those who need us.

“It is true that there have been delays and it will be a few months before everything is fully in place and we’re sorry about that. It’s also true that some information from the previous providers needs redirecting and that is in hand; we’re very grateful for their help.

“We are concentrating on a personal service – making it available for the people who want contraception or screening and to use it when they want to use it, at allocation that suits them. Though that may look different and feel different, it will be better.

“There are also other resources (like emergency contraception from pharmacists) that can help people.”

More than 100 concerned residents had petitioned the county council to review the “decision to have only three sexual health hubs… leaving the north of the county with inadequate provision”.

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Last week, Surrey County Council’s cabinet member for health Helyn Clack (pictured above) responded: “Continued cuts to funding, rising costs and increasing demand for key services means that the need for Surrey County Council to find savings has reached unprecedented levels.

To read Cllr Clack's response in full, click here.

“The financial envelope available for the sexual health procurement reflected significant decrease in funding for public health services in Surrey, but still allows for a quality service that is in-line with national requirements and responsive to local needs as identified in the sexual health needs assessment.”

From December 2016: Surrey County Council forced to dip into 'largest ever use of reserves' to address £15 million overspend

Surrey County Council has faced £170million of cuts to its annual grant from central government as part of an austerity programme levied by the Tories since 2010.

And in December, the county council was forced to use £24.8million of reserves – its largest ever use of reserves – after blowing its budget by £15million last year.

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Surrey County Hall

A county council spokesman said: “This new contract, which was communicated in advance, will help improve services and better meet the needs of Surrey’s residents while also helping to save £2million at a time when our budgets are under enormous pressure from rising demand for services like adult social care.

“Despite these savings there will still be a number of sexual health clinics and hubs based across the county while our new extended outreach service has been designed to target those most in need.”

For more information on sexual health services in Surrey, click here or here.

To order a home testing kit, click here.