Sexual health league tables to show GP contraceptive prescribing
By Lilian Anekwe
Ministers are drawing up plans to launch league tables scrutinising GP prescribing of contraception in a bid to cut rates of teenage pregnancy, Pulse can reveal.
The Department of Health will begin publishing balanced scorecards for sexual health indicators this summer, to scrutinise PCT and SHA performance on a range of indicators including LARC prescription and rates of teenage pregnancy and STIs.
The South West Public Health Observatory and the Health Protection Agency are developing a national set of sexual health indicators, to monitor PCT progress in addressing health inequalities in teenage conceptions, abortions and sexually transmitted infections.
It is hoped publication of PCT league tables, and the inclusion of 10 QOF points for offering women information about LARCs from this April, will force PCTs to focus more effort on GP prescribing of contraception and cutting teenage pregnancy rates.
The move comes after figures published last week showed the first rise in the rate of pregnancy in under 18s in five years.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the rate of pregnancy in under 18 year olds rose by 2.4%, from 40.9 conceptions per 1,000 women in 2006, to 41.9 per 1,000 in 2007.
Ministers acknowledged that the rise in teenage pregnancies ‘suggested that young people are not accessing effective contraception'.
In response to the rise, health minister Dawn Primorolo announced an investment of £20.5m, including £10m to encourage PCTs to establish ‘innovative' ways to make contraception available to teens.
Pulse revealed last year that the DH had approved a pilot in Southwark, Lewisham and Lambeth PCTs – where teenage pregnancy rates are amongst the highest in the country – to make the contraceptive pill available at pharmacies under a patient group direction.
This week a Department of Health hailed the scheme had a model for improving access to contraception. ‘We welcome the work Southwark PCT has undertaken. Pilots like these will help show whether supplying contraception through pharmacies is effective in reducing unintended pregnancies.'
But Dr Martyn Walling, a GP expert in contraception in Spalding, Lincolnshire, said he feared only cheaper forms of the contraceptive pill would be available under a patient-group direction.
‘We know if we put all women on cheaper forms of the pill like microgynon 40% will stop taking it because of side effects. I'm not against making the pill available over the counter in principle, but I will be really disappointed if we don't offer women a choice of the full range of contraceptive pills – it will be a waste of time.'More cash for contraception
£7m for a new ‘contraceptive choices' media campaign to raise awareness of LARCS and other contraceptive measures
£10m for local health services to ensure contraception is available in the right places at the right time
£1m to support further education colleges to develop on-site contraception and expand sexual health services
£2.5m to develop a programme for all Government departments to develop young people friendly services