An anonymous contractor shares why emergency contraception should be easier to get in pharmacies

The issue of emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) has once again reared its head in the media.

A report published last week by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends the morning-after pill ‘should be sold straight off the shelf’, like condoms.

The problem I have with this is that EHC, unlike condoms, should not be a preventive measure used before intercourse. The clue, after all, is in the name – emergency. We shouldn’t encourage it to be a first resort, an alternative to regular contraception.

I also disagree with the Royal College that women should be able to obtain EHC without speaking to a medical professional first. By consulting with a pharmacist or GP, women can engage not only about contraception, but potentially other issues, too – being pressurised to have sex, for example, or, as in my own consultations, women who don’t want more children but haven’t wanted to tell their partners.

As I say in every consultation, there is nothing to be embarrassed about in asking for EHC. Such consultations have opened up many conversations about contraception generally and we often talk about what has been tried before, as well as other suggestions.

A consultation that really stands out in my mind is a young lady who didn’t realise that taking certain contraceptives would still result in a bleed, which she wanted and therefore hadn’t considered.

What women really need is easier access to contraception, without the rigmarole of time off work to get a GP appointment. Contraception should be available via the pharmacy, due to our longer opening hours and ease of access.

There needs to a blanket national service available to all women who need emergency contraception. It shouldn’t depend on the feelings of the pharmacist the woman sees that day, unless that pharmacist is willing to look after and fund the baby that could result from withholding EHC.

Overall, like everything we do in pharmacy, treating patients with respect and without judgement is imperative. It is vital that counter staff are trained to make the process more comfortable, such as using a piece of paper to indicate a consultation is needed as opposed to bellowing through the pharmacy that ‘SOMEONE NEEDS THE PILL!’

So it’s time to think; how are you helping women have better access to EHC and ensuring they are treated with respect?