Contraceptive pill to be available from local pharmacies from December
Date published: 19 November 2023
Cerazette is a brand of contraception. It is one of several 'mini' pills available
Thousands of women across the North West will be able to get the contraceptive pill at their local pharmacy from next month, as part of a major expansion of primary care services.
Pharmacies across the country will begin offering the new contraceptive service in December with almost half a million women able to access the pill next year without needing to contact their GP first.
The rollout is part of the NHS and government’s primary care access recovery plan, announced by the head of the NHS and the Prime Minister in May, which committed to making it quicker and easier for millions of people to access healthcare on their high street.
Pharmacists will also ramp up the number of life-saving blood pressure checks given to at-risk patients over the next year with a commitment to deliver 2.5 million a year by Spring 2025 – up from 900,000 carried out last year. It is estimated this could prevent more than 1,350 heart attacks and strokes in the first year.
And beginning from early next year, patients will also be able to get treatment for seven common conditions directly from a pharmacy, without the need for a GP appointment or prescription. The new service will cover sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women.
The ambitious blueprint aims to free up to 10 million GP appointments a year by next winter and give the public more choice in where and how they access care.
Dr Paula Cowan, GP and medical director for primary care in the North West, said: “The care and support people receive from their local pharmacy is rightly highly valued by patients and so it is essential we use the expertise, skills and convenience of community pharmacies to make it as easy as possible for people to get the help they need.
“With an ageing population, we know we need to further expand and transform the way we provide care for our local communities and make these services fit for the future and so we are also working towards making a range of services available for patients on the high street – not only is this better for patients but also ensures that patients are seeing the most appropriate clinician and service to meet their clinical needs.
“The NHS has changed a lot in the last 75 years and we need to ensure we are modernising primary care, be that the care you are receiving in general practice or in a community pharmacy. We have a range of expert support available and continuing to increase access to this expertise is our priority.”
As more pharmacies begin offering the contraceptive service, nhs.uk web page will be updated so women can check which pharmacy near to them is offering access to contraception.
For the first time across England, women will be able to walk into their local pharmacy to be supplied oral contraception for the first time, in addition to being able to receive their next supply.
In the North West, Millenium Pharmacy in St Helens has been taking part in the pilot of this programme and has provided this service to over 30 women in the last six months.
Stuart Ellis, pharmacist and director of Millenium Pharmacy said: “Being able to offer this service to women has allowed us to reduce barriers and increase access, it also gives us the opportunity to support general practice colleagues, rather than making a GP appointment, patients can simply pop into their local pharmacy.
“Just last week I had a consultation with a patient who had come in for a refill of the contraceptive pill she had been on for a while. Part of the consultation includes a general health check, which involves a blood pressure check.
“The review showed she had developed high blood pressure and I discussed with her that alternative contraceptive pills are available that are clinically safer. I was able to offer an alternative and can continue to monitor her progress.”
The plans, known as Pharmacy First, aim to utilise high street chemists more effectively as part of the wider primary care recovery plan and help improve access to general practice by freeing up appointments.
Dr Cowan added: “I’m delighted the changes that the NHS is making mean people will have new and convenient ways of accessing treatments for many common conditions. Contraception is essential for many women, and this is a big step forward in making these services easier for women to access.”
Community pharmacies are staffed by skilled and qualified health professionals. A consultation has already been launched to enable pharmacy technicians to supply and administer medicines and the responses are currently being reviewed.
Karen O’Brien is NHS England North West’s Chief Pharmacist; she said: “It makes perfect sense to use community pharmacies as a first port of call for healthcare advice, access to contraception and health checks such as blood pressure tests.
“Local pharmacies are staffed by highly qualified healthcare professionals and empowering them to do more is a logical next step for primary care. These new services will help patients and the public, as well as reducing pressure on GPs and the wider NHS.
“Pharmacy teams will remain very busy throughout this winter but they will be working hard to build these new services into their daily workload when they relaunch. We hope that members of the public will want to take full advantage of the offer from community pharmacies in due course.”
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