HIV patient slams NHS Fife care changes

All patients with HIV will now be treated through the sexual health clinic at Whyteman's Brae
All patients with HIV will now be treated through the sexual health clinic at Whyteman's Brae

A 75-year-old woman has branded NHS Fife’s treatment of HIV patients as “laughable” after care services were altered without warning.

Under the changes, which were prompted by the recent retirement of Dr Bhattacharya, HIV patients in his blood- borne virus (BBV) clinic at Victoria Hospital were transferred to the sexual health clinic at Whyteman’s Brae.

The retired professional, who has received care through NHS Fife for over 10 years, said the change was issued to patients on a calling-card.

“It was presented as a fait accompli,” she said. “Our views were totally ignored.”

Being forced to wait at a clinic for sexually transmitted diseases was “insensitive”, she added.

“There’s no confidentiality. Two weeks ago I had to sit for an hour and witness every Tom, Dick and Harry coming in with a sexual disease.

“When I expressed my worries to management I was told I could go to Edinburgh or Ninewells and transport would be laid on for me. It’s laughable that Fife would throw money away like that to get rid of trouble-makers.”

The latest figures published by HIV Scotland reveal 197 people living with HIV in Fife last year, of which 176 were in contact with specialist services and treatment.

Although HIV can spread through sexual contact it can also be transmitted through blood.

Heather Knox, director of acute services NHS Fife, explained the region previously had two cohorts of HIV patients – one within the infectious diseases service and one in the sexual health service.

She added: “We did not carry out consultation with individuals due to the time constraints we were facing with the short notice retiral of a consultant, and we acknowledge we could have communicated the reasons for the change to the clinic location in a better way with patients.

“However, this was a small change in the physical location of the clinic to a dedicated clinic area which allows for more specific support to be offered to HIV patients rather than being part of a general outpatient clinic.”

She added: “I would advise that we will be offering dedicated BBV clinics to allow a more holistic multidisciplinary approach which meets the HIV standards of care.”