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Chemists to give contraceptive pill

Women will be able to get the Pill from chemists without the need for a GP prescription under a new pilot scheme set to go ahead next year.

Two London primary care trusts - Lambeth and Southwark - have received funding to test the initiative to see if it is suitable for rolling out across the country.

Under the scheme, women will be able to obtain the oral contraceptive after a consultation with a pharmacist.

If the pilots are successful, the Pill could become available nationwide at pharmacies without authorisation from a doctor, similar to the morning-after pill.

Measures will be put in place to ensure that staff are up to the job, health minister Lord Darzi said last year.

Instructions, called patient group directions (PGDs), will be handed to pharmacists by senior clinicians at strategic health authorities (SHAs).

PGDs are documents which make it legal for medicines to be given to groups of patients without the need for individual GP prescriptions.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "We will be receiving quarterly updates from SHAs on improving access to contraceptive services and will be working with them to assess the success of the schemes in their areas."

Copyright © Press Association 2008

Department of Health

Do you agree that the Pill should be availble without prescription? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"Yes. Non-urgent GP appointments can difficult to book, sometimes with waits of 2 weeks or more. This may give women choice and make the pill more available at times when time is of the essence - last minute holiday etc" - Tony Pendleton, London

"As per some of the previous comments, I agree that assessment and training is the key issue. The pharmacists must be trained to the same standard as doctors and nurses in the field of contraception and hopefully this will creat partnership working with all the professionals." - Kathy, London

"Depends if they will take a full personal and family medical history, check blood pressure, etc." - Lucy, West Yorkshire

"Yes, and doctors and nurses are not the only profession who can assist in getting women the Pill. This is an opportunity to discuss wider sexual health matters. Chemists are often open for longer and frequented by the local population and this is a good idea." - Kathy French, Bromley

"Hopefully, this 'may' help prevent some unintended conceptions, but it still doesn't bridge the gap between preventing unintended conceptions and sexual infections. So why not give out a good supply of free condoms with each request for the pill, unless a woman specifically opts out of receiving them? We need to change the 'contraceptive mentality' to incorporate wider notions of safer sex, for STI and HIV prevention too!" - David T Evans, London

"No. GPs and nurses must undergo indepth training to be able to safely prescribe the pill. Also if patients do not go to their GP, there is a whole range of possible contraception that may not be made availabe to them. Visits to the GP are an opportunity to check the patient is up to date on cervical screening, etc. It would be okay if the pharmacy gave the pill as a repeat over a period of a year but the initiation must be undertaken by the
GP/nurse." - Lis Tamayo

"Yes. Manchester has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the country. After appropriate training, the level of professional care that pharmacists are capable of providing in assessing patients and making a supply will not be less than can be expected from their GP." -  Paul Radnan, Manchester