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Scotland: Community pharmacies to offer ‘bridging’ contraception service

‘bridging’ contraception

By Isabel Shaw

27 Sep 2021

Community pharmacies in Scotland will be able to provide a three-month supply of desogestrel — a progesterone-only pill (POP) — as a ‘bridging’ contraception method from 9 November, Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) has announced.

Pharmacists can supply three months’ worth of desogestrel to women while they wait for longer-term contraceptive methods, following an amendment to the Directions for the Public Health Services for community pharmacies, according to a circular sent last week.

This comes after the Scottish National Party (SNP) pledged to explore options for moving the delivery of longer-term forms of contraceptives to community pharmacy.

A pilot of the bridging contraception service pilot was launched in several pharmacies across Scotland in April.

The service has been introduced for women between the ages of 15 and 55 to help to increase access to contraception and reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

Under the terms of the service, a three-month supply comprising 84 desogestrel tablets can be provided following an EHC consultation, or — where no EHC is required — as a standalone temporary supply.

A study, published in The Lancet last year (November 2020), found that enabling community pharmacists to supply women with a course of the POP along with emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) increases the overall use of effective contraception.

The new service is intended to involve a face-to-face consultation. However, a pharmacist may consider whether it would be appropriate to conduct a consultation by telephone call or using NHS Near Me.

In addition, the pharmacy must ensure that the patient receives an ‘acceptable level of privacy’ while the client is receiving the service ‘to respect confidentiality and safety’.

If a pharmacist refuses to offer the service on moral grounds they must ‘treat the matter sensitively and they are required to advise the client on an alternative local source of supply (for example another pharmacy, GP practice or sexual health service)’.

Earlier this month, BBC Three reported the cases of three females under the age of 18 who claimed they had been refused the morning-after pill at pharmacies. All three said they were refused by the pharmacists for no reason, with no alternative suggested and without being signposted elsewhere.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) disputed the decision of the pharmacists who refused to supply emergency contraception, labelling the action as ‘completely unacceptable’.

Contractors will be paid £30 for every bridging contraception consultation undertaken by a pharmacist.

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