A SEXUAL health programme which hands out condoms to children as young as 13 will be nearly doubled in size under plans to expand it to all of the Capital’s high schools.
NHS Lothian wants to establish Healthy Respect drop-in centres within or near all of Edinburgh’s 23 secondaries – up from 12 currently.
And the number of Lothian-based Healthy Respect Plus clinics offering services to youngsters such as free condoms, contraceptive implants, pregnancy testing and abortion referral is to increase from three to six.
It has also emerged that expansion proposals for the service, include the Capital’s three Catholic high schools – sparking concern among church leaders.
The Healthy Respect service is aimed at youngsters aged 13-18 and it is not clear what advice or service would be offered to younger secondary school pupils.
Parent representatives today said they were worried families could be left in the dark about children’s choices.
Lisa Quinn, chair of St Joseph’s RC Primary parent council, who plans to send her daughter to a Catholic high school in Edinburgh after she finishes P7 next year, said: “Obviously, nowadays things happen a lot sooner than you would want them to, so at least a lot of those children will have somewhere to go.
“I can see the need for this and I don’t think it’s entirely a bad thing but personally speaking, I would rather my child came to me. At 13, a child is not an adult. Maybe if the child needed to go into a centre a letter could go out to the parent advising them that the child has attended it.”
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh said: “Catholic schools across Edinburgh have their own, distinct programme for promoting healthy relationships entitled Called to Love, which is rooted in a Christian understanding of love, marriage and the family, and leads to good life outcomes for our young people.
“Therefore, anything that could potentially undermine that commonsense approach would be unhelpful.”
However, Naomi Crowley, parent council member at Broughton High, which does not currently have a drop-in, said that she thought the expansion was a “good idea”.
“Some young people will be sexually active before their parents would like them to be so they need to have access to the right information,” she added.
Health experts said the move was aimed at plugging “gaps” in existing services.
Mairi Simpson, NHS Lothian strategic programme manager for sexual health, blood borne viruses and substance misuse, said: “Currently 12 City of Edinburgh high schools have a drop-in service in or close to them.
“Planning is under way to identify gaps in drop-in provision and to explore how best to fill these gaps. Drop-ins are hosted within existing services, such as schools, health or community centres or voluntary organisations.
“They are set up on a sustainable model using existing resources, such as school nurses, youth workers and community, learning and development staff supported by Healthy Respect.”
City leaders said that the Healthy Respect proposals would complement information provided during personal and social education classes, adding that there were no plans to expand these.
TEENAGE STI RATES HIGH
FIGURES last year revealed the number of under-16s with Sexually Transmitted Infections in the Lothians was 50 per cent higher than might be expected, with children as young as 12 being diagnosed with chlamydia.
Despite covering just two-thirds of the population in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Lothian averaged 104 cases of chlamydia in children aged 12-15 each year between 2010 and 2012, compared with an average of 100 in NHS GGC. Overall, around a quarter of the 400 children diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis every year across Scotland were in the NHS Lothian area.
Most of those patients were aged 14 or 15.