A pilot has launched to explore increasing the role of community pharmacy in the management of, and access to, contraception.  

The NHS pilot will run in seven PCN areas from 30 September 2021 to 30 September 2022, however the NHS confirmed this could be extended.  

The tier one pilot, called the community pharmacy contraception management service, will assess two things, according to the NHS Business Services Authority (NHS BSA):  

  • The potential for community pharmacies to provide more access to ongoing oral contraception.  
  • The possibility that community pharmacists could initiate access to contraception and recognise it as a place to support wider patient choice and create capacity.  

Within the pilot, pharmacies will conduct clinical checks for people who need repeat prescriptions of their oral contraceptive pill and if ‘clinically appropriate’, then a further supply of the pill.  

Pharmacists will also be expected to discuss alternative contraceptive methods and share information about these.  

The aim of the service is to relieve the burden on wider primary care and sexual health clinics, as well as improving patient access to oral contraception.  

Currently, the pilot is being launched in south Yorkshire and Bassetlaw; north east Lincolnshire; Hull CCGs within Humber, Coast and Vale; Cumbria and north east; Lancashire and south Cumbria; Suffolk and north east Essex ICS; and Staffordshire.  

Pharmacy contractors who are eligible to take part will be contacted by their NHS England and Improvement team, according to NHS BSA.  

These pharmacies can then register if they meet a number of standards including that they are able to offer face to face appointments in a confidential consultation room.  

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society welcomed the new service, saying it would give patients better access to contraception and free up general practice and the wider NHS.  

Thorrun Govind, chair of the RPS English Pharmacy Board, said: ‘We are pleased that the pilot will improve access to contraception and sexual health services and, as medicines experts, pharmacists are well placed to deliver this service and support the public with healthcare advice.  

‘People seeking this support for contraception can be assured that pharmacists are trained to deliver contraceptive services, as seen recently with the move to offer a progestogen-only pill over the counter at pharmacies.  

‘The public will be able to visit a pharmacy without an appointment and receive support and advice from a trained professional, whilst also reducing pressure on general practice and the NHS.’ 

It comes after the UK medicine regulator approved two progestogen-only pills for sale without a prescription from pharmacies earlier this year.  

Following a Government consultation, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) reclassified Hana and Lovima tablets – both desogestrel (DSG) 75 microgram progestogen-only pills – in July so they can be provided over the counter. 

Pharmacists welcomed this news as a ‘step in the right direction’, but called for the Government to subsidise the availability of the contraceptive pill from pharmacies.