‘We cannot afford to lose the Castlemilk Sandyford’: MSP demands guarantee that sexual health clinic will be reopened

While it was originally announced the clinic would be shuttered from January to April, the much needed local service remains closed

  • Activist group Women Against Capitalism argues that the clinic is vital for an area with a high proportion of young people, many of whom are on low incomes
  • Petition set up demanding that the clinic be reopened
  • Castlemilk one of several sexual health services which have suffered closure over the past year

SNP MSP James Dornan has called for a guarantee that a sexual health clinic in Castlemilk will be reopened by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, after the centre’s temporary three month closure was apparently extended with no end in sight.

Sandyford Castlemilk is one of several sexual health services, including similar centres in Drunchapel, Pollok and East Dunbartonshire, which have suffered temporary closures that NHSGGC has attributed to staff shortages.

The clinic offers sexual, reproductive and emotional health care to the community including testing and treatment, contraception and gynaecology services, as well as a walk-in service for young people, which reportedly has the highest uptake of use across the city. While the closure was originally meant to last until April, it remains closed.

Without Sandyford Castlemilk, the nearest similar service for local residents is in Govanhill – 30 minute bus journey away at the expense of a £2.40 ticket. This, argues the activist group Women Against Capitalism (WAC), is a barrier to a community where one in four local people are said to be facing financial hardship – a ratio of more than double the 2017 Scottish average.

In order to bring attention to the clinic’s closure, WAC set up an online petition calling for Sandyford Castlemilk to be reopened, which note: “Castlemilk has a high population of young people, including almost 30% in low income families (2015). They were able to access a walk-in Sandyford service in Castlemilk supported by youth workers but this is also part of the current service closure, meaning young people are missing out on their right to health including emergency contraception and referral to other services such as specialist counselling. 

READ MORE: Revealed: 6 ways that new data exposes the inequalities of Scotland's communities

“Castlemilk is also one of the few Sandyford services open later hours, usually open to 8pm it is an essential services to those in employment, education or daily caring responsibilities who are unable to access others across the city due to limited opening hours.” 

In a joint statement given to CommonSpace, WOC explained that they were approached in March by Chris Lang, the youth worker responsible for development a health-spot where young people could get advice about health issues and talk about their concerns in a safe environment. This was linked with the Sandyford clinic, where a specialist nurse and doctor could address any issues relating to sexual health.

WAC said: “This was/is a great initiative [for] breaking barriers. One young person said: ‘It was great we could pop into the drop-in, and then if we had any issues, we could pop next door discreetly for advice.’”

WAC say that the clinic had the highest uptake of use across the city, and was used as an example to follow by other local clinics: “So when Chris told us they had an email saying it was about to close temporarily for three months, Jan to April, citing staff shortages, he was concerned about the lack of information and that it might be permanent. We agreed and set up a petition in March, and collected 150 signatures.

“We then allowed for a time-lapse; there are so many issues in our community, poverty being the main, [but also] the lack of shopping provision, the community football pitches being under-resourced… So we have been busy trying to stand up for those things. But come June, when there was no sign of the clinic opening, we stepped up the campaign again, and since then our petition has rocketed, standing at 440 online and a further 250 collected on paper.

“We want this vital service reinstated – a service we’ve had in the community for 20 years. To not have it would have a long-term negative effect.” Women Against Capitalism

“We created a leaflet highlighting the issue. Most people didn’t even know it had closed, but not one person refused to sign and most were angry at yet another cut. Also, one of the women involved in group’s niece phone for an appointment, only to be told that there’s a six week waiting time [and] to go to either Govanhill or Parkhead. This isn’t on.

“We intend to bring this issue to the attention of everyone in our community. We want this vital service reinstated – a service we’ve had in the community for 20 years. To not have it would have a long-term negative effect.”

SNP MSP James Dornan, who backs the campaign to save the clinic, told WAC that he has asked to meet with representatives of the NHS.

Speaking to CommonSpace, Dornan commented: “I’m extremely concerned by the rumours of closure of the centre. I know it took a lot of hard work and effort to get the young people of Castlemilk to use Sandyford and I’m concerned if it closes many people will be lost to the vital service it provides.

“Castlemilk is a great community which has been stripped of too many facilities, we cannot afford to lose the Castlemilk Sandyford too.” SNP MSP James Dornan

“I have been in contact with NHSGCC about this on a number of occasions and was at first reassured that it would be reopening soon but, unless I get an early guarantee with a date of reopening attached I’m afraid all my confidence in their response will be lost.

“I will continue to support the local community, who have been extremely vocal and committed to retention of the service and am looking to try to garner even more support and awareness from the people of Castlemilk. Castlemilk is a great community which has been stripped of too many facilities, we cannot afford to lose the Castlemilk Sandyford too.” 

Speaking earlier this month, a spokesperson for the local health board said: “Unfortunately, due to staffing issues we have had to temporarily close four Sandyford clinics, including Castlemilk, and don’t yet have a date for their re-opening.

“Every effort is being made to address the staffing issues and in the meantime, patients are being offered appointments at our other clinics."

Picture courtesy of YouTube

CommonSpace is entirely funded by small, regular donations from you: our readers. Become a sustaining supporter today.