Rhys Williams, superintendent pharmacist at Woodville Road Pharmacy in Cardiff, talks to Saša Janković about using his independent prescribing qualification to run a contraception service.

Service type: Contraception supply

Name and location of pharmacy: Woodville Road Pharmacy, Cardiff

Name of superintendent pharmacist: Rhys Williams

When did you start offering this service?

It’s been running for over two years as an IP service, but before that it was a locally commissioned service for a couple of years. 

Why did you start offering this service?

Three or four years ago the local sexual health clinic approached the local Health Board to get this up and running. Cardiff is a big university city with about 30-40,000 students arriving en masse every year, so that’s a lot of young people to cater to, and as our pharmacy is located in ‘student central’ we are in the perfect setting for this service.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

It’s a full contraceptive supply service that we basically limit to UKMEC Category 1 and 2, whether that means we are starting people off on the pill, changing their pill if they are not getting on with it because of hormonal side effects and so on, or identifying people on the wrong contraception.

Initially it was a walk-in service but demand grew so quickly that the workload made it easier to run it on an appointment basis – although if the person was desperate you wouldn’t turn them away as that’s pharmacy’s selling point. Since the contract change, and now there is more funding for independent prescribing in Wales, it has become easier as we can see people at any time.

We find that students especially can really need a booked appointment to fit in around their studies, especially those at the Schools of Medicines, Pharmacy and Dentistry here in Cardiff who have very busy schedules.

We are able to give people a 15-20 minute consultation, or if they are a first timer we’d give them a double appointment so they are crystal clear on the risks and benefits of contraception.

Are there any opportunities to sell OTC or prescription products during or after the consultation?

Since the new Welsh pharmacy contract from April added in a ‘minor ailments plus’ service on top of the national common ailments service, and I can use my IP qualification, we can also help patients with UTIs and skin conditions that often come up during sexual health and contraception consultations as well.

How have patients responded to the service?

All the pharmacists who offer this service in the city are IPs and we have kept in touch with our sexual health DMPs, giving us quick access to consultants in sexual health who we can talk to on the day and make appointments for our patients with them directly within a couple of weeks if needed. This means our patients get a quicker service straight into consultant level, which they wouldn’t get if they went to the GP, as that referral goes on to a sexual health nurse.

The Health Board commissioned an anonymous report on the service and the feedback from patients was that it was the most thorough contraceptive consultation they had ever had.

Roughly how often each month do you carry out the service?

Now we are seeing in excess of 100 people every month, although it does go down in summer when fewer students are here.

How much do you charge for the service?

It’s an NHS prescribing service so free for the patient.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

It’s a no brainer. Patient feedback is really positive and the ease of access mean it’s a service that takes the burden off GPs.

There is a backlog for appointments for long-acting contraception in general practice, so providing oral contraception is a good bridging method until the patient can access long lasting contraception, reducing unwanted pregnancies as well as giving people a chance to think what method they want to use in the longer term.