IT is a lesson that, very often, less is more.
NHS Lothian is rethinking the accurate, if rather too conspicuous, naming of the Chalmers Sexual Health Centre, following fears the bold sign was putting off patients.
Complaints from embarrassed users began soon after the £8 million centre opened last June and the sign itself was vandalised at the end of the year.
Now health chiefs say the damage, which saw several letters removed, has provided the opportunity to reconsider the centre’s name. A consultation is under way, paving the way for the new sign outside the centre in Lauriston Place.
Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale told how she had heard teenagers saying people who went to the clinic were “skanks”.
She said: “If that’s the attitude of people, it cannot be delivering for the young people who perhaps need it most.”
After she raised the issue with NHS Lothian, chief executive James Barbour wrote telling her: “Due to damage sustained as a result of vandalism, an opportunity has arisen to review the name of the clinic on the signage.
“A number of stakeholders are being consulted to decide on the appropriate wording. Chalmers Dental Hospital, situated opposite, will also be consulted, to ensure patients will be able to distinguish clearly between the two services.”
Mr Barbour said the consultation would conclude by the end of next month and the new signs then be put in place.
Ms Dugdale said: “This is an excellent opportunity for the NHS Lothian board to fix this.
“It’s not about being prudish, it’s about not excluding people from being able to access an important service, particularly young people who might be vulnerable when it comes to their own sexual health.
“The only reason it is called Chalmers Sexual Health Clinic is because there is a dental clinic across the road.
“Surely it cannot be beyond the health board to come up with a name that doesn’t involve the words sexual health but people can still find it.
“We need a name that won’t put off people who are nervous about raising some questions about their sexual health.”
Jane Morel, Scotland area manager for the Terrence Higgins Trust, said there was a difficult balancing act between trying to encourage more openness about sexual health and ensuring people were not deterred from seeking help.
She said: “We want the stigma around sexual health clinics to be removed but, at the same time, it is really important there are no barriers to people accessing services.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of – it should be as normal as going to the dentist. We should not be hiding these services in dark alleys, we should be changing the culture.
“It may take a while for attitudes to change and we don’t want people to feel intimidated.”