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GP training 'scandal' hits contraception uptake

By Christian Duffin

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has blamed a shortage of GP training opportunities for reductions in the number of women being prescribed long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs).

NICE figures show that 1.15 million LARC procedures were prescribed and dispensed in the 12 months to March 2007, 2.98 % down on the previous year.

But there was a 5.34% cut to 984,000 in the use of what is by far the most popular method, the injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera. The figures represent a blow for the Government in its drive to cut the number of unwanted pregnancies.

The figures for intrauternine devices remained fairly static although almost 15,000 more women were prescribed implants (Implanon).

The statistics confirm the fears of GPs which were reported by Pulse in April.

‘It is important to know that the NICE cost impact report stated that the uptake of LARC methods would not be achieved in the short term,' said a NICE report on the new data. ‘This is due to a shortage of trained staff and fitting services.'

‘It is assumed that, given better information and improved access to all methods more women will choose and LARC method over the oral contraceptive pill.'

GP training over the prescription of LARCs has come in for huge criticism, with Dr Margaret Safranek, a GP in north London telling Pulse it is a ‘scandal' that it is so ‘long and complicated.'

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