Chelsea may soon be losing its last remaining family planning clinic in plans being drawn up by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and the NHS, residents and staff have reported. This is despite sexual health diagnoses running at a three year high.
If plans to relocate the Violet Melchett family planning clinic are executed, Chelsea will be left without a dedicated primary family planning clinic.
Furthermore, despite the potential closure scheduled to happen at the end of March, the clinic’s patients have still not been officially informed.
KCW Today has learnt that any plans to commission a new adult sexual and reproductive health service for the tri-borough area are scheduled to begin April 2017, which means the closure of the Violet Melchett clinic in March this year could leave the area without essential services.
According to statistics provided by Public Health England, Kensington and Chelsea is currently facing an increase in the number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Somewhat paradoxically, however, staff at the Victoria Melchett Family Planning clinic have been told by their commissioner the clinic is due to be decommissioned because of the increase STI diagnoses.
Among the other seemingly contradictory reasons given for decommissioning the Violet Melchett Family planning clinic are increasing occurrences of high risk sexual activities and current services not meeting the demands of the “current sexual health needs”.
Staff at the Violet Melchett who first raised concerns about the effect of the closure on the local population have launched a petition to halt the process.
Managers are alleged to have told staff at the clinic that they “are developing some rooms within the existing building that will provide a range of primary care, voluntary sector, and social care services to the local population. The new ‘whole systems hub’ will seek to join up care for local residents and deliver improved healthcare outcomes within West London”.
However, despite already collecting hundreds of signatures, it may already be too late to prevent the closure of the clinic. Reports from staff have indicated that renovation work on the building which the clinic operates out of have began, and staff have been told that they are being “relocated to Lisson Grove,” a larger hub clinic in Marylebone.
Confusingly, official statements from Kensington and Chelsea Council and the NHS both attempted at first to deny any knowledge of the plans, then seem to blame each other for the decision.
In a statement Kensington and Chelsea Council said that they “are not aware of any plans Central London Community Healthcare (CLCH) has to reduce its satellite service.” The Council added “if the core service at Violet Melchett was changed we would expect satellite clinics to continue to deliver family planning services to the levels” which the borough has commissioned.
However, RBKC are currently reviewing their “community based clinical reproductive health services” which they operate “through a contract with CLCH”. This reportedly to “address changing needs and trends” in the borough.
Likewise, the Central London Clinical Commissioning Group (CL CCG) said in an official statement: “We are looking at options for future use of some of the space at Violet Melchett Health Centre, but as yet no decisions have been made.”
When asked to clarify the confusion over who is actually responsible for the closure, the CL CCG blamed Kensington and Chelsea council for the decision, saying: “family planning services are commissioned by the council, not the CCG.”