PATIENTS of a health centre set up to support Bournemouth’s LGBT community are protesting against its relocation.

Over the Rainbow was established in St Michael’s Road more than 15 years ago, providing sexual health screening, treatment and education, and operated by staff from Dorset County Hospital.

However, the NHS plans to move the centre to Springbourne, citing the £27,000 rental cost of its current base near the Triangle - often regarded as the hub of the town’s gay community.

Staff and patients at the centre are trying to raise funds to cover this year’s rent, buying time so a longer term solution can be worked out with the NHS.

Bournemouth councillor David Kelsey, the borough’s equality and diversity champion, is among those backing the campaign.

He said: “At present the centre has a well-known location and people feel comfortable going there, they feel safe and secure.

“Being gay, though a lot more accepted now, is still not accepted by everyone.

“Some people still want to keep their private lives completely private, and the centre is much more confidential than the hospital.”

The NHS plans to move the service to The Junction in Holdenhurst Road, an existing sexual health clinic, but Cllr Kelsey said he feared patients would be put off going there by drug rehab clinics and half-way houses in the vicinity.

“We are not saying the centre should be a special case, but it does relieve Bournemouth hospital of a lot of work freeing staff to deal with other patients,” he said.

“We are fairly confident they will raise the money, the community here is good at keeping together.

“Negotiating for funding will be the more difficult part.”

Dorset County Hospital told the Daily Echo it was hoping not to have to move the centre.

A spokesman said: “Over the Rainbow provides a hugely valued service and we are doing everything we can to ensure the centre can stay where it is in St Michael’s Road, Bournemouth.

“We are currently looking at options to continue the lease in the short-term.

“Longer-term we hope to attract external funding to preserve and enhance the service provided.”

“We appreciate that there has been some anxiety amongst our service users about the future of the centre and we would like to assure them that we will keep them up to date with any developments.”

As well as a weekly sexual health clinic, the centre hosts an array of support groups, including Mind Out - supporting LGBT people with mental health problems - and Break Free - supporting those questioning their gender identity.

It has joined with Dorset Equality Network to seek funding, and among other fundraising events in the pipeline, the centre is set to benefit from ticket sales for the IAB Amateur Southern Area Middleweight Title bout between Bournemouth-based boxers Sean Callaghan and Jason Wheeler.

The fight will take place at the O2 Academy in Boscombe on Saturday March 18.

Mr Callaghan said: “The services and support Over the Rainbow offer is invaluable to many within the local area. I have decided to pledge that any commission I raise from this fight will be donated to keep Over the Rainbow at the centre of our community.”

To book tickets for the match, donate via Just Giving or find out more visit