Published: 00:01, 05 July 2014
It is feared thousands of students will fail to get screened for sexually-transmitted diseases if a clinic at the University of Kent is drastically downgraded.
A petition has been launched to save sexual health services at risk of closure at the University Medical Centre at the Canterbury campus.
The treatment it offers includes chlamydia testing and contraception advice, but Kent County Council is currently recommissioning the service.
The students’ union fears this could mean all treatment will be stopped due to a lack of staff provided by the authority’s subcontractor, the Kent Community Health Trust.
The petition has already been signed by hundreds of the 14,000 students and residents who can access the clinic within walking distance.
Kent Union’s vice-president for welfare, Megan Wells, said: “We need to be promoting regular sexual health checks for everyone to make sure that sexually active people are clear of sexually transmitted infections.
“Cutting these services will have a negative impact on sexual health in the Canterbury area, as it is not just students from the University of Kent who use these services, but many of the patients in the local area.”
Sexual health charity Brook agreed, describing access to sexual health care and advice as “absolutely vital” for youngsters.
Deputy CEO Jules Hillier said: “Students may well be young people who are away from home for the first time and unfamiliar with local health services, including sexual health services.
“Having a source of information, treatment and support nearby is really important, to help them navigate uni life and to enjoy their sexuality without harm.”
The centre’s Express Clinic and the Mercury Clinic, which both provide quick STI checks and sexual health screenings, are at high risk of closure from January 1, 2015, when the contract ends.
An alternative suggestion is for students to use sexual health services at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, but there are concerns they could refuse to travel further.
Miss Wells added: “Travelling from the campus to the medical centre is free of charge, rather than a one-hour round trip on the bus, which also costs money.”
"Cutting these services will have a negative impact on sexual health in the Canterbury area" - Megan Wells
The closures were first proposed at a patient participation group for the University Medical Centre last month.
A KCC spokesman said: “The council is looking at ways of helping the contractor to maintain the current level of services.
“However, if this does not prove possible, we will need to look at alternative ways of making sure students have access to the services they need.”
A new KCC contract for students and young people is being considered for April 2015, consisting of an “integrated sexual health service”, including advice on safe sex and how to prevent STIs, screenings, access to contraception and psychosexual counselling.
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