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A faulty production line

Use of LARCs 'unacceptably low'

Prescribing of long-acting reversible contraceptives has fallen in the two years since NICE recommended they be used more often.

A failure to provide GPs with training opportunities is being blamed for the drop.

Data from the NHS Information Centre shows the total number of LARCs prescribed in England increased from 655,000 in 1996 to a peak of 1,225,000 in 2004 – a rise of 87%.

But since then the numbers have dropped to 1,195,000 in 2005 to 1,163,000 in 2006.

In October 2005 NICE encouraged GPs to offers LARCs to all women seeking contraception advice.

The number of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) prescribed in England has risen more than 40% in ten years – but has declined since the publication of the NICE guidance recommending their use.

GPs have blamed the desperate lack of training places for provision of contraception, and over-subscribed Faculty of Family Planning courses, for the failure to implement the NICE guidance.

An official report by NICE on the uptake of the LARC guidance, published in July, also acknowledged that the uptake of LARC methods would take up to five years to be achieved, stating: ‘This is due to a shortage of trained staff and fitting services.'

Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, said the use of LARCS was still ‘unacceptably low'. ‘PCTs are failing to meet targets', she added.

A second report, on the cervical screening programme, showed the percentage of inadequate samples taken fell for the first time this year, from consistently over 9% since 1998, to 4.7% last year.

The improvement was attributed to the roll-out of liquid-based cytology; by the end of the 85% of laboratories will be using the technique.


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