Generic picture of contraceptive pill
Generic picture of contraceptive pill

Pill-on-demand for 13 year olds?

By SOPHIE BORLAND Time of article published May 2, 2012

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London - Girls as young as 13 should be given the contraceptive Pill without having to see a doctor, according to an NHS report.

It recommends that high street pharmacists across Britain routinely hand it out to teenagers under the legal age of consent in the hope of reducing unwanted pregnancies.

Normally girls and women can only go on the Pill once they have undergone a thorough consultation with a GP or nurse as it can cause side effects including blood clots.

But in a pilot project, five high street pharmacies in the London districts of Southwark and Lambeth have been handing the Pill to over 16s without a doctor’s prescription.

Now a review of the project, which was reported in the Daily Mail in December 2009, has concluded that it should be expanded “across London and nationally”. The review, carried out by NHS South East London, adds: “Consider providing the service to women under 16 years where appropriate. This may help contribute to a reduction in teenage pregnancies.”

Elsewhere the document, obtained by Pulse magazine, specifies girls aged 13 to 16.

Officials at the Department of Health say it is up to individual NHS trusts to decide if they want to adopt similar schemes. They will not be issuing national guidelines.

But a number of chemists in two primary care trust areas have already begun providing the Pill to girls as young as 13 in an attempt to tackle teenage pregnancy rates. Since November 2010, the Isle of Wight PCT has been carrying out a trial across ten pharmacies to offer it to girls and women aged 13 to 25. Girls who go into the chemist wanting the morning-after pill are also offered a month’s supply of the Pill following a consultation with the pharmacist.

If they want additional supplies they will have to see the GP or practice nurse. NHS Manchester began a similar project last year in 13 chemists.

But Professor David Paton, of the University of Nottingham, who specialises in contraceptive policies, said that if young girls knew they could get the Pill without their parents finding out they might be more inclined to have sex.

“There is clear evidence that it is unlikely to reduce teenage pregnancies,” he said.

“All the evidence is that greater provision has no impact on teenage pregnancies.”

Dr Fiona Cornish, a GP in Cambridge and president-elect of the Medical Women’s Federation, said she was “uneasy” about whether pharmacists would be able to carry out a proper consultation with girls.

But she added: “I’m convinced there is a good case for the over 16s as they are already offered emergency contraception – the morning after pill – at pharmacists.”

Senior GPs point out that the Pill can cause rare but fatal blood clots so it is essential that girls undergo a proper consultation to ensure they are not at risk.

Doctors, nurses and pharmacists are legally allowed to give the Pill to a girl under the legal age of consent as long as they ensure she is aware of the risks of having sex and of taking the medication. Due to patient confidentiality laws they cannot tell the girl’s parents.

Recently Britain’s teenage pregnancy rate has begun to fall although it is still one of the highest in Europe.

The most recent ONS figures show that births to girls under 18 dropped by 10 percent last year and are now at the lowest level since 1969.

Campaigners say this is due to increased availability of contraception and improved sex education in schools.

But some of the measures to cut teenage pregnancies have proved highly controversial.

Earlier this year it emerged that schools were providing girls as young as 13 with contraceptive implants without their parents’ knowledge.

- Daily Mail

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