Brook NI, FPA and The Rainbow Project have positively responded to comments made by Dr. Michael McBride and Professor Wallace Dinsmore regarding the difficulties being experienced at Belfast Genito Urinary Medicine (GUM) services in an article published on 02/04/14 in the Belfast Telegraph entitled ‘Royal Victoria Hospital can’t cope with Northern Ireland STI crisis, claims top medic’.
Brook NI, FPA and The Rainbow Project are three leading sexual health charities with a combined 80 years of clinical and community based sexual and reproductive health testing and information experience in Northern Ireland. We work alongside the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), Public Health Agency (PHA) and Health and Social Care Trusts to provide the best possible service for those in need. We agree with the statement by Dr. Michael McBride that the current model of service at the Royal Victoria Hospital is not fit or purpose and we have consistently raised these concerns over recent years. The Health Minister must undertake investment in the service and in years to come. The Community and Voluntary sector plays a vital role in addressing the sexual health needs of high risk groups* and
needs to be involved in meeting current and future need for the Northern Irish population. Community and Voluntary organisations continue to provide much needed cost effective sexual health services across Northern Ireland on infections and issues which the population is most at risk of experiencing.
Director of Brook NI Mary Crawford said ‘young people attempting to access specialist GUM services have told us it is almost impossible for them to either phone or make appointments at times that suit them. As a result of demand we have extended our GU service to include a Thursday evening as well as Saturday afternoons. We offer a full range of diagnosis and treatment for young people aged 24 and under.’
Director of FPA in Northern Ireland Audrey Simpson said ‘for many years committed staff at GUM services have had an impossible task of trying to meet demand for their services. It is time now to make strategic decisions supported by the appropriate investment’.
The Rainbow P
roject, which provides Northern Ireland’s only sexual health testing and promotion service for men who have sex with men, works with Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital GUM service to provide outreach GUM clinics for men who have sex with men. James Copeland, Sexual Health Development Officer, stated that ‘it is important that the public is aware that community based services are of equal value to public and private services and provide additional support vital to the success of sexual health services across Northern Ireland. We are also aware that the health needs for men who have sex with men are not just limited simply to the provision of sexual health testing. A robust and comprehensive sexual health service must be accompanied by quality sexual health education which speaks to all peoples, regardless of sexual orientation.’ The Rainbow Project provides Northern Ireland’s only rapid HIV and Syphilis testing service dedicated to men who have sex with men.
Notes to Editor