A SIGN outside a newly opened £8 million sexual health clinic is putting off would-be patients in fear of being labelled “skanks”, it was claimed today.
Lothians MSP Kezia Dugdale today said the sign at the Chalmers Sexual Health Centre in Lauriston was too bold, and that many of her constituents were fearful of entering the building due to the stigma attached.
The facility has a secret exit for those embarrassed about being spotted, but the signage is putting people off, she claimed.
However Guy Slade, a parliamentary spokesman for the Terrence Higgins Trust, believes it is people’s attitudes that need altering, not the sign. He said: “Sexual health has been a taboo in the past but it is becoming more and more normal for people to discuss and seek treatment.
“People wouldn’t object to a heart clinic being labelled as such so why a sexual health clinic?
“It’s public attitudes to sexual health and the stigma attached that need changing, not the sign.”
Kezia Dugdale said she welcomed the service but felt a more muted approach would attract more patients.
She said: “I have received complaints about not just the signage but the service also.
“Surely ‘Chalmers Street Clinic’ would see people finding the address just as well.
“I recently overheard three schoolgirls outside working up the courage to go in. As they walked past the sign, one said to the other, ‘People will think we’re total skanks going in here’.
“Constituents have also contacted me complaining about waiting times when phoning for an appointment and the length of queueing within the facility.
“People need to feel reassured when seeking help on these matters and I believe all these problems only combine to inhibit this.”
There are currently more STDs treated in the Capital than in any other area of the country, although recent studies have shown chlamydia cases to be falling.
NHS Lothian says that more than 10,000 patients have already been seen at the new sexual health clinic since it opened in June and the number attending had vindicated its decision to build the £8m centre.
Jamie Megaw, Strategic Programme Manager for Sexual Health Services, NHS Lothian, said he understood Ms Dugdale’s concerns but added: “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.
“As part of this evaluation, we are keen to take on board the views of patients and staff about all aspects of the service.
“We are aware there has been an issue with the telephone system and we are working to improve how the system works for our patients.”