Above: Brigstowe volunteer, Pete Clasby
Goodbye Bloomsbury, hello Southmead – moving my HIV care
I’ve done it, after 17 years I have ended one of the longest and happiest relationships of my life. I have moved my HIV care from London to Bristol.
At first, this probably seems like a simple, practical decision but I was surprised by the emotions it prompted and the reluctance I initially felt about making the change.
I had been looked after by the Bloomsbury Clinic on Tottenham Court Road in London since I was diagnosed there in 2001. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful consultant who I was with till she retired last year. The team looked after me through the complex and difficult times of the early years of my diagnosis, right up to my most recent visits which were as much about catching up with friendly faces as doing bloods and seeing doctors.
Till I thought about moving my care, I hadn’t realised how attached I was to my old clinic and how deeply it was part of my history and story as an HIV+ man. So when I decided to move from London to Bristol my first instinct was to keep my care at Bloomsbury and go back a few times a year for check-ups.
So what changed my mind? Not long after arriving in Bristol a friend who had lived here messaged to say how well he had been looked after by the team at Southmead and could I say hello to the nurses from him. I replied to say I hadn’t moved my care over, but his recommendation was enough to get me thinking.
My initial email to the nurses was answered within a couple of hours (speedy replies are a hallmark of the team) and an appointment was made to start the transfer of my care. Everyone I saw at that first appointment, and the full check-up I have had since were welcoming, caring, efficient and knowledgeable. You couldn’t slide the thinnest piece of paper between my experience in London versus Southmead when it comes to the staff.
The biggest change for me was being in a hospital environment. I was used to a separate clinic aligned to, but not part of a large hospital. This has meant adjusting to the way hospitals manage appointments and the loss of some creature comforts – comfy chairs, free tea and coffee, telly to distract you while you wait. But these are small things that are quickly put aside when the care provided is excellent.
It is also the first time I have met and talked to a clinic pharmacist. In London the pharmacists stayed in their basement dispensary, my medication handled entirely by a home delivery company who, for the sake I assume of confidentiality, would leave cryptic messages on my answerphone never including the company name – ‘Mr Clasby, it’s Mary, I want to speak to you about a delivery…’
At Southmead the pharmacists are seen as part of your appointment, it was great to be able to speak to them directly and have the opportunity to ask any questions.
One difference is that at Southmead there isn’t a dedicated patient representative. At my London clinic a patient representative was available to see in person most days. They were able to provide peer support and help with any issues you might have with the clinic’s services. The great news is Brigstowe are currently working with Southmead on how they can extend their Peer Mentor programme to include a presence at the clinic and improved access to their newly diagnosed courses.
Overall, once I’d deciphered the self-check-in and found my gate I realised I had the same familiar feeling – that of a dedicated HIV specialist team welcoming me as a member of their clinic.
I doubt I will ever have the same connection or emotional response to the clinic at Southmead as I did with my old clinic in London. With a likely two visits a year, compared to the weekly and monthly appointments I had during the first years of my diagnosis, I am simply not going to be there enough. But that is a good thing.
Medication, life expectancy and individual experiences of diagnosis and living with HIV have changed rapidly and dramatically since it was first identified, and our clinics and support services have adapted and changed too. I’m glad I made the move to Southmead, but I am also glad that in 2018 the progress made in HIV care means my visits need only be occasional.
Find out More
HIV/Aids Services including sexual health check-ups and other related services for clinic members.
Anyone with HIV, 1,200 patients currently registered with the clinic, a team of 17 including dedicated nurses, consultants and pharmacists.
Monday-Thursday, see the website for daily opening hours.
Southmead Hospital, Brunel Building, BS10 5NB
0117 414640← Back to Latest News