‘Pregnant’ schoolgirls sing to save Margaret Pyke Centre outside Islington Town Hall
- Credit: Archant
Around 50 students with fake baby bumps and dolls protested outside Islington Town Hall on Thursday evening against the possible closure of the Margaret Pyke sexual health centre.
The Centre in Wicklow Street, which provides free contraception, referrals and advice to around 400 patients a week - including many in Islington - faces possible closure by the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) as part of plans to impose £6million worth of cuts to sexual health services over the next two years.
At 6:45pm on Thursday, students from Camden School for Girls and UCL Medical School gathered outside the council building where they sang an alternative version of Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’.
Lyrics were changed to:
“We all need our contraception
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We all need our birth control
No unwanted pregnancies in the classroom
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CNWL: leave our clinic alone
Hey! CNWL! Leave our clinic alone!
All in all it’s just more women taking the fall
All in all it’s just more women taking the fall.”
Users of the sexual health centre and local GPs also spoke out about their personal experiences of the Centre and why it should not close.
Molly, a student at Camden School for Girls, said: “Saving the Margaret Pyke Centre is something everyone should care about and be involved in.
“Having access to the services the Margaret Pyke Centre delivers to the standard that they deliver them should be something that every woman has. Closing down the centre would seriously affect the lives of thousands of women and children in the area.”
A spokesperson for the CNWL denied that the services offered by the clinic would be compromised: “The song made us smile but it’s sad to read outrageous claims made by this campaign, opposed to any change at all. The fact is the services we developed and provide, will continue and will get better for people who use them.
“Does that mean they will always be in the same place? Of course not; we only moved to the current Margaret Pyke Centre in 2013 and some of those services are provided in Islington at our Archway Clinic, called ‘Margaret Pyke at Archway’. Margaret Pyke sees a handful of under 16s per quarter; Archway Clinic sees many more, perhaps indicating that services for young women are needed at more sites.”
The spokesperson added: “Change is very hard and people worry, that’s why people must be involved and they will be. It’s actually hardest on staff, who have to make changes to the way they work and this campaign adds to their anxiety.”
But Dr Jayne Kavanagh, a sexual health doctor who has worked at the Margaret Pyke Centre for 18 years, denied that the campaign added to the anxiety of staff.
“Far from demoralising Margaret Pyke Centre staff, the campaign has been really important for their morale, because they have seen how much they are valued and appreciated by service-users, local GPs and the wider community,” she said. “It is the lack of transparency and uncertainty that is making staff anxious, especially since CNWL have confirmed that jobs will go.”
After the protest, Dr Kavanagh presented a petition signed by over 6,000 people against the closure of the clinic at a council meeting inside the Town Hall.
In a speech to councillors, Dr Kavanagh said: “Diminishing the service would lead to more unwanted pregnancies and more unplanned children being born. We know about the personal and social cost of this and the impact on Child Social Care and NHS budgets.
“It makes no financial sense to compromise contraceptive services.”
Rated “outstanding” by the Care Quality Commission earlier this year, the Margaret Pyke Centre, which was opened in 1969, offers all contraceptive methods, cervical smears, pregnancy testing, abortion referral and advice, STI screening and treatment and psychosexual counselling.