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Contraceptive pill to be available without prescription

By Lilian Anekwe

Controversial pilots offering the contraceptive pill in pharmacies without prescription will be launched next year, Pulse can reveal.

Women and girls aged 16 and over will be able to obtain the contraceptive pill under the two pilot schemes to be run in three London PCTs from January, after bids for funding were signed off by the Department of Health.

Ministerial consent for the pilots comes 12 months after Lord Darzi announced the DH's intention to work with PCTs and the pharmacy profession to train pharmacists to be able to supply the contraceptive pill over the counter.

Pulse has learned that Lambeth and Southwark and Lewisham PCTs – three trusts in the country's top five for teenage pregnancy rates – have been selected to run the two-year pilots.

Pharmacists will offer the pill under a patient group direction to women and girls who have been assessed for suitability using a PCT-set protocol.

Jo Holmes, head of primary care delivery and development at Southwark PCT, said its £30,000 pilot was likely to herald the pill becoming available over the counter.

‘We've worked with King's College London to develop a course for pharmacists to offer access to the pill, which could be used by other PCTs. We have six pharmacists who will be able to deliver the service, as well as chlamydia screening and possibly LARCs.'

A DH spokesperson said: ‘We will receive quarterly updates from PCTs and work with them to assess the success of these pilots over the next two years.'

Dr Imogen Shaw, a GPSI in gynaecology in Finchingfield, Essex, said: ‘Increasing availability is a good idea as long as there is a proforma guiding pharmacists on when to give it.

'In older women there are far more contraindications, but teenagers are the ones who find it difficult to access the pill, so I would imagine they would be the primary cohort to make use of it.'

Contaceptive pill to be made available without prescription in pharmacies in two pilots

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