A charity has welcomed moves which could potentially give nurses the power to hand out the contraceptive pill without prescription.
The Department of Health said senior clinicians at strategic health authorities (SHAs) may issue patient group directions (PGDs) over the pill to suitably-trained health staff in future.
It may mean girls under 16 are able to obtain the oral contraceptive after a simple interview, putting the treatment on the same footing as the morning after pill.
Anne Weyman, chief executive of the reproductive health charity fpa, said the plans are "extremely welcome".
"It's absolutely essential however, that this initiative is part of a comprehensive and holistic approach to broaden women's access to all fourteen methods of contraception and not just the pill," she added.
Health minister Lord Darzi said: "It's right that pharmacists and nurses play a greater role in the provision of healthcare, but its wrong to suggest that this is a move to make the contraceptive pill available over the counter.
"What we might pilot is a process by which pharmacists or nurses carry out a full assessment process before supplying the pill under arrangements equivalent to prescribing.
"At this stage there is no commitment to roll this out, and we will need a full evaluation before we do."