• Friday, December 08, 2023

HEALTH

More women to gain access to contraceptive pills from pharmacies

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

From next month, nearly half a million women in England will gain access to the contraceptive pill directly from pharmacies without requiring a GP appointment.

The Pharmacy First scheme will also extend its services to include treatments for urinary infections and various common conditions, the BBC reported.

NHS England highlighted this initiative as a safe and practical approach to enhancing patient access to its services.

However, a pharmacy group raised concerns about the alarming pace at which community outlets were closing due to insufficient funding.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said that these changes offer women more choices regarding their preferred contraception and alleviate pressure on GP appointments.

Initially proposed in May as part of England’s primary-care strategy, this move aligns England with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, where comparable services are available.

Starting February, pharmacists who successfully apply to join the scheme will provide guidance and treatment for seven common conditions including sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bites, impetigo, shingles, and urinary tract infections in women.

NHS England also announced an increase in blood-pressure checks, aiming to deliver over two million by 2025.

With numerous pharmacies joining the initiative, it’s projected to prevent over 1,000 heart attacks and strokes.
The goal is to free up about 10 million GP appointments annually.

Dr Claire Fuller, NHS primary-care medical director and England’s lead GP, expressed delight in the enhanced accessibility of treatments for individuals through these innovative measures.

“Contraception is essential for many women and this is a big step forward in making these services easier for women to access,” she said.

Tase Oputu, head of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, supported the expanded role of community-pharmacy teams in treating seven common conditions.

However, some pharmacists remain cautious.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, sees this initiative as a positive step for patient care. However, she said that its success hinges on the level of bureaucratic hurdles and fair compensation for pharmacists’ time.

Hannbeck highlighted the concerning trend of numerous pharmacies closing due to prolonged underfunding and increasing inflation, particularly in various regions across the country.

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