THE closure of a dedicated sex advice centre for young people could lead to an increase in sexually-transmitted infections, it was claimed today.
Caledonia Youth was shutting the doors of its drop-in clinic in Castle Terrace for the last time today following NHS Lothian’s decision to end its contract to provide the service after 46 years.
But Lothian Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said young people would be put off going to the Capital’s main sexual health clinic in Chalmers Street because it was a hospital environment and there was a greater chance of them bumping into adults they knew.
Lothian has a history of high rates of sexually-transmitted infections, and Ms Dugdale said she feared the absence of a dedicated advice service for young people would mean cases soar.
The Caledonia Youth clinic – previously the Brooke Advisory Service – has been giving advice to young people since 1968 and supporters say part of its success was its relaxed atmosphere and the fact it was not part of the official system.
Ms Dugdale said: “This is NHS Lothian gobbling up a smaller organisation and mainstreaming their work to save money.
“They used to fund Caledonia Youth to provide a dedicated sexual health service for young people. Now they are saying to those young people ‘You can use Chalmers Street like everyone else’. The consequence could be fewer young people going to get advice and we could see a boom in STIs.
“There is a real risk some young people will just not go because it is going to a hospital and, unlike Castle Terrace which doesn’t see anyone over 25, they could bump into their mum or their auntie or their teacher.”
Hawys Kilday, chief executive of Caledonia Youth, said: “While we accept NHS Lothian has invested a lot of money in Chalmers Street, We are concerned that some groups, particularly vulnerable young people, may find it difficult to use the new service.”
She said Caledonia Youth hoped to continue its work of supporting young people in different ways.
Dona Milne, deputy director of public health at NHS Lothian, said the new service at Chalmers would provide improved access to the full range of contraception and sexual health testing.
She added: “The service provides a holistic approach, and includes discussions on emotional health and wellbeing, alcohol and drugs.”