Thousands of women across England will soon be able to get the contraceptive pill at their local pharmacy without needing to contact their general practitioner first, according to a release from the Government. Starting in December, pharmacies across the country will begin offering the new service for the first time, making it easier for women to obtain contraceptive pills.
The rollout is part of the UK Government and the Natioanal Heallth Services’s primary care access recovery plan called Pharmacy First, which intends to make it quicker and easier for millions of people to obtain medicines for a number common conditions without having to go to a doctor first for a prescription.
Instead of just making certain medications over-the-counter, patients will participate in a brief assessment conducted by pharmacists.
The seven clinical pathways cover sinusitis, sore throat, acute otitis media, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women.
All of these conditions may be also treated by online pharmacies, with the exception of earache, which requires the use of an otoscope.
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 the southern port city of Portsmouth and took part in a pilot test run of the new service at the beginning of 2022.
The pharmacy she works for 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 usually able to deliver the consultations in five or six minutes.
Sources: MercoPress. UK NHS