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School nurses ‘should give out morning after pill’

Medical leaders have called for a greater role for school nurses in reducing teenage pregnancies in Scotland, by handing out the morning after pill and contraception.

The Scottish Sexual Health Lead Clinicians Group (SSHLCG) argues that introducing such powers for nurses would help cut teenage pregnancy rates in Scotland, which are higher than in most European countries.

SSHLCG chair Dr Ruth Holman made the case in a written submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, which is examining ideas for tackling unplanned pregnancies.

The submission said: ‘The potential for the school nursing service to make an impact is restricted by lack of finance for posts and also timidity on the part of Government and local authorities.

‘Why is emergency contraception not available in schools? Why are condoms and contraception to accessible? Vaccination against a sexually transmitted infection (HPV) is given in schools, why can’t pregnancy and other STIs be prevented?

‘The Scottish government is prepared to make a stand on controversial subjects like gay marriage, why does it run scared of its critics on the subject of making emergency contraception available in schools?’

But GP experts had mixed views on the plans. Dr Paula Briggs, a GPSI in sexual health in Sefton, Liverpool, said she doubted whether giving out emergency contraception would reduce teenage pregnancy rates.

She said: ‘Emergency contraception became available in pharmacies and walk-in centres, but it hasn’t resulted in a significant reduction in unplanned pregnancies. Intrauterine contraceptive devices are the best thing by far as contraception, but giving out those in schools won’t happen.’

She added: ‘We are also concerned that focussing on teenage pregnancy often leads to focus on teenage females, while the males who impregnate them are ignored.’

Dr Anne Connolly, a GP in Bradford and chair of the UK-wide Primary Care Women’s Health Forum, said it was a ‘great idea’.

She said: ‘Giving out emergency contraception should not be just seen as an easy option done in isolation, but part of a wider programme.’