No doubt like many of you, I get tested regularly just to check all is well. My own rule is that I go every three months but for whatever reason, I realised I hadn't been at all this year so decided it was time to go!
I normally use the Chelmsford Clinic so gave them a ring to discover the service has been taken over by Provide Health Care who are running it for the NHS. I gave them a bell and it was annoying to have to re-register having previously been given my own ID number (which I'd memorised) which made life easier. I was impressed that they now offer free home testing kits, but they'll only post them to you, there's no option to pick one up. Even though I was assured they're in plan packaging, there's still the risk that somebody else at home would open it and even if they didn't, the package would raise questions again. So, an appointment was the best option for me. As always, I booked the earliest time of day I could.
So today was the day of the check-up. Unfortunately they've moved from their building near the bus station. While this was always a high traffic area it did always feel very discrete. Once in, I always felt "safe" with separate male and female waiting areas and you always felt that if you bumped in to anyone you knew they'd be no worries that they'd let-on they'd seen you as you're both there for the same reason. The new location is in the middle of a housing estate near the old St Johns Hospital. There are multiple clinics taking place at the same time so there is a mix of people in the waiting room. Several people came in wanting a "walk in" appointment but were turned away (if only they had home test kits they could've handed out) as they were too busy. I really felt sorry for these guys, especially the younger ones as it wasn't at all discrete and one of the receptionists on the desk wasn't very subtle in asking what clinic people were there for.
I was eventually seen an hour after my appointment time, by which time I was busting for a piss having not "passed water" for two hours prior to my appointment time. I have a hamster bladder and three hours was agony! The nurse I saw used to work at the old place and she did recognise me as an old patient. She explained all of the old records are "securely stored" so every patient has to give over all of their details again. This took an age to complete and while I'm now comfortable to admit to them I visit prossies I can imagine some wouldn't like having to go through all of this again.
I did ask her if the service would remain in that location as it didn't seem suitable. She said they were worried that it probably would and agreed that it wasn't suitable. She said they had raised all of this but the "management" can't get their heads around it. The GUM medical staff are worried people won't get tested and treated if needed as the place is not discrete and not designed for the purpose like the old building. Once the tests were done I was given a glossy card emblazoned with "Essex Sexual Health Service" and a list of the services they offer with my new unique ID number! Hardly subtle!
Not really sure why I'm posting this... just wanted to have a rant about an important service being ruined and couldn't really rant to a civvy about it! If you do go there to be tested and haven't been since the move, you have been warned!