The clinical director of a sexual health service has warned that it is on the brink of collapse because of spending cuts.

The clinical director of a sexual health service has warned that it is on the brink of collapse because of spending cuts.

Dr Pat Munday, clinical director of Watford sexual health centre, wrote to Mary Pedlow, chair of Dacorum primary care trust in Hertfordshire, to say the service 'is now paralysed by lack of nursing staff and is struggling to provide any services at all'.

In the memo, a copy of which has been seen by HSJ, she wrote: 'There is no possibility that we can go any way towards meeting the 48-hour target and, indeed, we will almost certainly slip back in the next audit because of our frequent reduction in service and closures.'

Dr Munday claimed that the two PCTs in the area - Dacorum, and Watford and Three Rivers, - were determined to reduce attendance, despite the 48-hour access target for genito-urinary medicine clinics being one of the NHS's six priorities.

And although extra money under Choosing Healthhad been allocated to the PCTs for such services, none of this had reached the sexual health clinics because it was used to reduce deficits, she said.

Dr Munday says the service - commissioned by the PCTs from West Hertfordshire Hospitals trust - has had posts frozen and been told to reduce activity by 40 per cent this year. St Albans and Harpenden PCT had then agreed to fund services in that area, allowing for some recruitment of staff. However, the other two PCTs were still planning lower activity levels. she said.

Dr Munday warned that the failure of patients to access sexual health clinics would lead to more cases of sexually-transmitted infections and expensive complications.

She added: 'I have found it very difficult to speak to anyone senior within the PCTs to make them aware of the likely collapse of the Watford sexual health centre within the next few months. This will be inevitable unless we can recruit to our vacant nursing posts.'

The two PCTs and acute trust claimed no funding had been withdrawn from sexual health services, and said Watford would be able to provide the same level of service as last year. They did not comment on whether this amounted to a 40 per cent cut in activity compared with before last year's cuts. In a statement, they said the PCTs were 'moving towards' providing more sexual health services in the community, and that this would enable them to meet the national target for sexual health, but did not respond to questions about when this would happen.