St Albans HIV clinic to relocate to Ware
A CLINIC offering support and care for around 250 people living with or affected by HIV could be moved from St Albans to Ware in June.
Funding will be withdrawn for the Crescent on Russell Avenue and the services would be provided by Herts Aid, which is based in Ware. Users of the service stand to lose a vital lifeline which not only supports individuals with HIV but those whose lives have been affected which includes their families, friends and support networks.
With almost 25 years of experience offering the service, the news that the Crescent will be closed in June has shocked many involved with the clinic. A user-generated blog has been set up online to try and gather support for the clinic and prevent its closure. The group have also made contact with MP Anne Main who shares the group’s concerns about the decision and is particularly interested to know what consultation process was undertaken before the decision was made.
Mrs Main said: “There doesn’t seem to have been any consultation or consideration of the impact on those who use the service. There are no details yet as to whether there would be any outreach services or transport links to Ware and I am writing to Herts County Council and the PCT to try and establish how this decision was made.
“The Friends of the Crescent group have been very proactive and at the very least, I would like to see a stay of execution here so that an appropriate consultation can take place and the needs of the service users can be assessed.”
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Paul Meaton, the private and voluntary sector organiser for the Herts branch of UNISON, said: “The county council have taken the unilateral decision to award the new contract to Herts Aid without any consultation.
“Staff at the Crescent are understandably upset and not just because they will lose their jobs but because of the amount of people who will lose the support.
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“Local government is supposed to be separate from central government and it doesn’t need to make such devastating cuts, it has a reserve pot for these situations and could make limited cuts. We can see situations like this occurring across the board and they don’t have to, especially not in Hertfordshire, which is one of the richest counties in the country.”
A spokesperson for NHS Hertfordshire (PCT) said the decision had been made after a period of significant review which led the PCT and county council to conclude that they could provide good HIV and sexual health services to all who need them by developing a single countywide service.
She said: “That will offer more equitable access to all service users than is the case right now. It will also ensure we deliver a service that makes best use of resources.
“Consultation with service users, their carers and staff is currently underway and we are listening to what people tell us, addressing their concerns and responding to their questions.
“We will use what they say to help shape the new countywide service into one that we believe will encourage more user engagement and a more flexible service than we have at present.”
The Crescent works with the GUM clinic in the city and offers free HIV and Chlamydia testing. The decision comes in the same week that figures revealed the number of those infected with HIV has doubled in the last decade.
To find out more about the user group’s campaign to save the clinic, visit: http://savethecrescent.wordpress.com/