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Former ambulance transformed into mobile sexual health clinic

L-R: Swansea Bay transport manager Andrew Davies; lead sexual health nurse Joanne Hearne; sexual health nurse Helen Donagh; Swansea Bay head of nursing for primary and community care Karen Gronert; operational nurse manager, sexual health services, Lorraine O’Leary; Welsh Ambulance Service Operations Manager in Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend, Jeff Thomas; and (in ambulance) health care support worker Anna Jenkins.

A former ambulance is back on the road delivering a vital service that the pandemic had severely disrupted.

It was donated to the health board’s sexual health service to provide outreach services and to support the more vulnerable in society – such as homeless people and sex workers.

The vehicle, decommissioned and donated by the Welsh Ambulance Service, has been completely overhauled and given a smart new look as it tours locations not just in Swansea Bay but in neighbouring Bridgend too.

Lead nurse for sexual health, Joanne Hearne, said: “With Covid hitting us, our ward was repurposed and we could no longer run our community clinics.

“Also, patients were advised not to attend hospital so we had to look at alternative ways of delivering care.”

Before it could be put to use, the vehicle needed some repairs and was redesigned to reflect its new purpose.

Instead of the traditional ambulance colours, it has been painted white. It features the distinctive Swansea Bay University Health Board brand, along with the title Allgymorth Cymunedol – Community Outreach.

Taking pride of place on the side door is the logo of Zac’s Place, a Swansea-based charity that supports homeless and vulnerable people, and which paid for some of the work to be done.

“We managed to get the ambulance into a garage and they prioritised the work and got it on the road,” said Joanne.

“A few weeks ago we finally got the signs put on the side of the vehicle as the workshop had been closed due to Covid. It’s now looking really good.”

People wanting to use the service must first call 0300 5550279. This is available Monday-Thursday 8am-6.30pm and Friday 8am-2pm.

Sexual health service staff then carry out a telephone triage and consultation to determine whether they need to come into hospital or whether the service they require can be delivered in the community.

Joanne said: “It could be for a contraceptive injection, to deliver contraception, STI treatment, or for the pregnancy advisory service.

“We’re out Monday to Friday. We start in the Bridgend area and come back to the Neath Port Talbot area, then go on to Swansea.

“It’s much more convenient. People can get the services they want via the helpline. It’s much closer to home.

“We hope to progress this by going out to see the homeless, substance misuse patients, and street workers.

“We also hope we can reduce the risk of teenage pregnancy by getting the services out there in the community.”

Karen Gronert, Swansea Bay Head of Nursing for Primary and Community Care, said: “We are very grateful for the donation from the Welsh Ambulance Service.

“It allowed us to provide services in a different way. We cover the Bridgend area and it’s particularly important because we have no community clinics there at the moment.”

Jeff Morris, Welsh Ambulance Service Operations Manager in Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend, said: “We are delighted one of our decommissioned emergency vehicles has been brought back into service by our colleagues at Swansea Bay.

“Repurposing the ambulance to provide mobile sexual health services will benefit hundreds of people across the area.

“It will enable them to access the advice and treatments they require without the added pressure of travel.

“This project really highlights the positive impact of partnership work between the Welsh Ambulance Service and the health board.

“It will be a great asset for the community, one we can all be proud of.”

Swansea Bay Chief Executive Officer Tracy Myhill added: “I am delighted to see the redesigned ambulance back in use for the communities we serve.

“The Welsh Ambulance Service and the health board have a strong relationship and partnership.

“As the previous CEO of the ambulance service, of which I remain very fond, I am delighted to be part of recognising this great development between the two organisations.”

More information about sexual health services, and the changes made as a result of the pandemic, can be found here: https://sbuhb.nhs.wales/community-services/primary-care/sexual-health/