HC Deb 25 February 2003 vol 400 cc517-8W
Mrs. Calton

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what(a) monitoring and (b) research has been conducted or for his Department on long waiting times for genito-urinary medicine services; [97149]

(2) if he will make a statement on the investment by his Department on GUM clinics; and how the investment will be spent; [97148]

(3) what the average waiting times were in GUM clinics for patients referred by general practitioners in the latest period for which figures are available. [97147]

Ms Blears

The average (mean) waiting time for a first out-patient appointment for patients referred to genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics by general practitioners is 2.15 weeks as of September 2002. However GUM services are open-access and the vast majority of patients self-refer, so this figure may not be an accurate reflection of waiting times which vary across the country.

Data from clinicians in the field shows that medium time to first appointment in GUM services has lengthened to 12 days for men and 14 days for women. However there is wide variation in waiting times across the country. It is important that people with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are able to access GUM services quickly. Evidence from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (2000) shows that people with an untreated STI typically pass the infection on to a further one to four partners. If there is a wait for several weeks, there is a high risk that the patient will not turn up for the appointment.

We have invested a total of £5.3 million in GUM services this financial year. This funding was allocated in recognition of the pressure GUM services are facing and in response to concerns from the profession about the possible impact of the new adult sexual health campaign launched in December. We advised this money should be used in line with the priorities highlighted in the sexual health and HIV strategy to increase service capacity and reduce waiting times, develop clinical networks and expand the role of health advisers. The local primary care trust sexual health lead has been asked to monitor that the money has been used effectively.