People in Lothian are facing a five-month wait for a key drug that almost eliminates the risk of getting HIV. There are 172 people currently waiting for Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) on the NHS, with an average wait of 150 days.
NHS Lothian says it is currently expanding the service to bring down waits for appointments. In 2017 Scotland became the first country in the world to provide the drug, which drastically reduces the risk of getting the virus from sex, free of charge to those at the highest risk of acquiring HIV.
Edinburgh MSP and Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “When I looked into this a year ago the wait list for PrEP in NHS Lothian was 125, now that’s ballooned to 172.
“The board’s failure to tackle this is extremely disappointing. These long waits are putting patients in unnecessary danger.
“PrEP provision should be uniform across the country. There’s no reason patients living in Lothian should wait weeks longer than those elsewhere.”
Almost all of the nearly 2,000 people prescribed PrEP in the first year it was available on the NHS were men who have sex with men.
Grant Sugden, the chief executive of HIV prevention charity Waverley Care, said: “PrEP is a really important tool in preventing new HIV infections and it is important that everyone who needs PrEP is able to access it as soon as is practicably possible.
But he added: “We recognise that the introduction of PrEP has created additional pressures for the NHS across Scotland and we hope that steps can be taken to resolve these issues.”
Katie Dee, deputy director of public health and health policy in NHS Lothian said: “We apologise to anyone who has had to wait longer than they should for an appointment. There has been a large demand for PrEP.
“However, we are committed to providing high quality care for patients who require this medication and have recently invested in additional nursing, medical and administrative staff for the service.
“We are also committed to introducing additional clinics and are in the process of putting plans in place for these. This will allow us to reduce the waiting time for appointments for people to be assessed and commence PrEP.”
This story was supplied as part of our partnership with healthandcare.scot.