WALTHAM FOREST: Contraception concern prompts clinic u-turn (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Concerns over sexual health services in Waltham Forest led to the opening of a new family planning clinic in Walthamstow.
A GP surgery which refused to provide contraception to patients in an area of high teenage pregnancy has performed a u-turn following widespread criticism.
Health bosses introduced family planning services at Comely Bank Health Centre because the adjacent Addison Road Medical Centre in Walthamstow refused to provide contraception.
It is believed the lead GP at the surgery is catholic and objected to the use of the pill and condoms.
But following concerns raised by the All-Parliamentary Group on Sexual Health and Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy about the accessibility of family planning and sexual health services in the area, the clinic has now changed its policy.
A report published by the All-Parliamentary Group called for various contraception restrictions to be lifted and used testimony from women in Walthamstow as a case study.
Jenny Lennox, 32, of Brookfield Avenue, was one of those who contributed.
She lives close to the Addison Road Medical Practice but was unable to get the pill from her doctor following the birth of her baby.
She told the Guardian: "I was horrified when I found out. Instead of a ten-minute walk to my GP, it meant a 20 minute bus ride with my baby in her buggy.
"Then, when I got there, I faced a long wait because they don’t run an appointments system. You just have to turn up and wait."
Waltham Forest one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the country, with an average of 206 cases a year between 1998 and 2009. Numbers have been falling but not as quickly as the national average.
Miss Creasy said there was a "real sense of frustration" about the quality of sexual health services in Walthamstow.
But she said work is still needed, including the introduction of an appointments system to make it easier for patients.
An NHS spokesman confirmed the services are now being offered at Addison Road but did not revealed the reason for the change in policy.
He said: "GPs decided to commission the clinic after discussions with women in Walthamstow revealed the need for more access to services in this part of the borough.
"GPs are now looking to increase provision further for local women."
No-one from the Addison Road Medical Practice was prepared to comment.
Health bosses have also agreed to meet with campaigners and residents next Friday (July 20) to discuss their concerns.
It will take place at the Salvation Army Hall at 432 Forest Road in Walthamstow, from 6.30pm.
The new clinic will operate every Thursday between 2pm and 7pm.
By law, NHS trusts must help residents with sexual health issues but GPs can refuse to provide contraception as a matter of conscience.
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