CALLS are going unanswered to a brand new £8 million sexual health clinic because of problems with the phones.
NHS Lothian said it was aware of problems with the phoneline into the Lauriston building which mean people who call to seek an appointment are being made to wait in a queue and often cannot get through at all.
The health board’s main switchboard for all services is also based at Lauriston, meaning calls specifically for the clinic are being jammed up in that same traffic.
One man who needs an appointment to see a specialist at the Chalmers Sexual Health Clinic, but has been unable to get through for more than a week, said he was despairing of the facility, which opened earlier this summer.
The man, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “You phone up and get put in the queue, but it doesn’t seem to move.
“At one point I was told by the automated message that I was 12th in line, and by the time I’d waited 20 minutes on the phone I’d dropped to 14th – I really have no idea how it works, certainly not like a normal queue.
“It must be putting people off, because how else do you organise an appointment, and that can’t be good if it means there is more risk of diseases spreading.”
The Evening News made three attempts to contact the centre in Lauriston, each call lasting 20 minutes.
On one occasion no progress was made from the position of three in the queue, while on the other two the call advanced three places, but still to nowhere near the front.
Mick McGahey, the Unison representative for Lauriston staff, said: “Of course the staff there aren’t happy because they’re the ones who have to deal with angry members of the public who’ve had to wait half an hour to get through.
“It is being worked on and I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault in particular, it’s just technology being technology.”
Despite the phone glitch, the health board said the clinic, which is the UK’s first one-stop shop for sexual health where patients can be tested, diagnosed and treated, had seen 10,000 people since opening.
It said a drop-in clinic ran from 8.30am to 10am each day, while other open clinics were available throughout the day.
Jamie Megaw, strategic programme manager for sexual health services for NHS Lothian, said: “We are aware there has been an issue with the telephone system and we are working to improve how the system works.
“As with any new building or service, we occasionally come across teething problems, and we are currently evaluating how the service is operating to see if there are any improvements we can make.
“Since it opened in June, the Chalmers Sexual Health Centre has seen over 10,000 patients.”