Thousands of women across England will soon be able to get the contraceptive pill at their local pharmacy without needing to contact their GP first, according to a release from the Government. From next month, pharmacies across the country will begin offering the new service for the first time, increasing choice for women in how they can access contraception.
The rollout is part of the UK Government and the NHS’s primary care access recovery plan, which committed to making it quicker and easier for millions of people to access healthcare on their high street.
Anyone needing the pill can access it through participating pharmacies without a referral from their GP, though they can be referred by their general practice or sexual health clinic.
The pharmacist will offer a confidential consultation and reach a shared decision with the person about their first supply of the pill, or the ongoing supply of their current oral contraception. The supply of oral contraception will be free.
For a combined oral hormonal contraception, a BMI and blood pressure measurement will need to be taken. These can be taken as part of the consultation within the pharmacy.
A person accessing the service may also offer their own weight, height and blood pressure measurements. Any self-reported measurements will need to be recorded as such.
Priya Littler is a pharmacist in Portsmouth and took part in a pilot of the service at the beginning of 2022. The pharmacy has seven branches across the city and all participated.
She said that the training for pharmacists was extensive, covering topics such as general consultation skills, the legal framework for prescribing combination and progesterone only contraception, as well as information around sexually transmitted infections and other areas that may come up during consultations.
Priya’s pharmacy branch is on a high street near to a university campus, meaning she sees both students and young families.
“Some of our clients may find it difficult to get an appointment with their GP”, she said, “so we wanted to make contraceptive pill services more accessible. It was also an interesting pilot for our teams to join, to expand their skills and knowledge.”
Ben Morris, a pharmacist in Stoke-on-Trent, took part in a pilot of the scheme in October 2021, which gave local people the option to access their ongoing supply of oral contraception directly from their community pharmacist.
After undergoing the necessary clinical training, Ben began consultations in January 2022.
He says that when they first started, each would take around 10-15 minutes, but now they are comfortable with the system and what it involves, they are able to deliver the consultations in five or six minutes.