Women’s health services will be offered in community pharmacies across Scotland as part of new plans outlined by the Government.
In the new Women’s Health Plan, published on Friday (24 August), the Scottish Government sets out its plans to ‘improve health outcomes and health services for all women and girls in Scotland’.
The plan — which was informed by the survey results of a wide range of women in Scotland — will initially focus on improving access to menopause services, abortion and contraception services, postnatal contraception service.
This comes just weeks after the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) published a position statement, aimed at addressing inequalities in women’s health care in which it argued for community pharmacy to have a more involvement in women’s care.
The plan will also focus on improving access to information for girls and women on menstrual health, faster diagnosis and treatment access for women with endometriosis and reducing inequalities in health outcomes for women’s general health.
The plan itself has been broken down into short, medium and long term goals which it hopes to implement over the next three years.
One of the long term goals is to provide and promote a women’s health pharmacy service.
Another ambition is to offer more routine sexual healthcare through community pharmacies and other primary care providers ‘to enable specialist sexual health services to prioritise those most at risk of sexual ill health or unintended pregnancy’.
Matt Barclay, chief executive officer and director of operations at Community Pharmacy Scotland welcomed the plan as an ‘exciting’ development, but said that it will not happen ‘overnight.’
He added: ‘The sexual health element of the contract is evolving in the coming months to involve long term contraception provision and the women’s health service will be shaped from this.
‘We’ll work with partners including the Scottish Government, patients and others to develop what the service should encompass and look like.
‘We are pleased ScotGov have recognised the role that the pharmacy network can play in Women’s Health.’
Laura Wilson, practice and policy lead for RPS Scotland, said: ‘RPS Scotland believes there is a need for greater focus on women’s health and so we are delighted to see the Scottish Government publish its Women’s Health Plan.
‘Our policy statement on women’s health, which was published earlier this year, was drafted in consultation with pharmacists in Scotland, and we shared our work with the Scottish Government ahead of publication of its plan.
‘Pharmacists and pharmacy teams already provide vital support and advice for women but we believe that with additional collaboration, support and resource, much more is possible.
‘We fully support greater involvement of pharmacy across all sectors in improving services for women and are encouraged that a Patient Group Direction is currently being developed in Scotland which will enable women to access desogestrel for free from community pharmacies.’
In July, the UK medicine regulator approved two progestogen-only pills for sale without a prescription from pharmacies.
Before this, the two desogestrel (DSG) progestogen-only pills, Lovima and Hana tablets, were only available on prescription following a medical consultation.
The landmark ruling was welcomed by health bodies and pharmacists alike, as a well-timed ‘step in the right direction’ as health services are busier than ever dealing with a backlog of patients.