I had a week off work, so I did what many women do when they have time off – important admin.
On the Monday at midday I went to my local hospital to their contraception clinic, I had rung up before and they told me to get there just before 12.30. I got there at 12.15 and queued up in the corridor.
I got to the front and I was turned away, along with several other people. The system is on a first come, first served but they do prioritise people with more important issues, such as those that have been sexually assaulted which makes sense. You queue up for sessions that are two or three times a day and you can either get an appointment for another day (17 are available two days in advance) or you can wait.
I returned at 3 to get into the 3.30 clinic, which I did. I wasn’t thrilled about having to wait for half an hour. I ticked the box for long-term contraception and then I sat down.
I was there as I wanted the copper coil, I’d had bad experiences with the pill and with the depo injection which gave me a cervical etropion. No more hormones for me. I was using condoms, however, they are not very eco-friendly and I had no concerns about catching an STI with my long-term partner.
Unsurprisingly, I was low down in the hospital’s priority list, luckily I had my e-reader, but I can tell you that I got very, very bored.
When I first entered the clinic, a woman actually cheered because she managed to get an appointment to come back another day. Another woman, like me, had to take the day off because she kept getting turned away from the later clinic.
Here is an idea of the opening times:
Monday 12.30pm – 2.30pm 3.30pm – 6.30pm Tuesday 12.30pm – 2.30pm 3.30pm – 6.30pm Wednesday 12.30pm – 2.30pm 3.30pm – 6.30pm Thursday 9.00am – 11.30am 12.30pm – 2.30pm 3.30pm – 6.30pm for under 25s Friday 9.00am – 11.30am 12.30pm – 2.30pm
I work from 10-6 so none of these is suitable for me, the clinic is constantly in demand so why not open all day? I didn’t get seen until 6pm so I spent three hours in the clinic as well as the half hour that I was there and got turned away. I don’t get much time off so it felt like a day wasted.
When I finally went in, the nurse told me about the IUD, all information that I already knew but she was very nice and apologised for the wait.
She told me to make an appointment for a fitting and I was given the next available appointment which was 6 weeks away. The problem with the IUD is that you are in pain after it has been fitted which would mean that I have to take more time off work. I had been hoping that I could get it done in that week which is why I went through all the hassle of waiting at the clinic.
Six weeks is a long time to wait to get contraception when I wouldn’t be darkening their door for five years afterwards.
It made me think about the other people who were also in the clinic, people who were being responsible by making sure they had no STDs and being in control of their fertility, as well as people managing existing conditions like HIV and those that have been sexually assaulted.
It hardly seems fair to put vulnerable people in the situation of playing the guessing game of when the clinic is actually open as well as the long waits due to high demand.
If the clinic was open 7 days a week then people could deal with these important issues without the stress and hassle of having time off in an age where most people work long hours.
My other thought was that contraception predominantly affects women and it seems wrong that we have to put up with this. I totally understand that all services are under a lot of pressure, but if diseases are treated and pregnancy avoided then that is going to save the NHS money in the long run.
I just don’t think it should be so hard to get contraception, there should be shorter waiting times and a better service. Good sexual health is a human right and making people sit around for hours in a tiny room in order to get that does not make sense to me.