UK & World News

  • 26 March 2014, 12:05

Teenagers 'Should Have Wider Access To Pill'

Teenage girls and other women under 25 should have easier and wider access to the morning-after pill, new guidance has ruled, to try to cut the number of unwanted teenage pregnancies in England and Wales.

The pill should be in schools and GP surgeries alongside free condoms, said the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

Teenagers - including those under the age of consent - should be able to get emergency contraception more readily, including pills and the IUD, or coil, which can be inserted up to five days after unprotected sex, the Nice guidelines say.

Professor Mike Kelly, a director of the organisation, said: "It is really important that sexual health services offering information and advice can be found in places where young people have access to them.

"Evidence clearly shows that the availability of contraception reduces the rate of unwanted pregnancies. Local planners and providers of services must make sure that what they offer is right for their area."

Under the plans, suitably qualified nurses and chemists should be given the ability to dispense free emergency contraceptive pills in accordance with patient group directions allowing health workers to supply medicine to a patient without the need for a prescription, said Nice.

There are two types of emergency contraceptive pill - Levonelle has to be taken within 72 hours of sex, and ellaOne has to be taken within 120 hours, or five days, of sex.

Regarding under-16s, Nice said health professionals providing emergency contraception must be aware that they can give it to under-16s "without parental knowledge or consent, in accordance with best practice guidance".

It added: "Health professionals, including pharmacists, who are unwilling (or unable) to provide emergency contraception should give young women details of other local services where they can be seen urgently."

Nice also renewed its 2010 call for young people to be given emergency contraception to keep at home in case they need it and young women must be told where they can obtain free, confidential pregnancy tests with same-day results.

Young women should also be "encouraged to consider and choose a suitable form of contraception for their future needs", the guidance said.

Anne Weyman, chair of the independent committee that developed the guidance, said: " England still has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Europe.

"Most of the young women who become pregnant while still a teenager do not plan to do so. Nearly half of all pregnancies among 15 to 18-year-olds end with an abortion.

"The new guidance aims to reduce unwanted pregnancies by ensuring that young people have access to a full range of contraceptive methods, not just pills and condoms, but the longer-acting methods, such as contraceptive injections and implants.

"As well as the unnecessary heartache for these young women, unwanted pregnancies also have a financial cost, with abortions for young women under 25 costing the NHS approximately 53m each year."

Although in the past there have been concerns about regular use of the morning-after pill, guidelines now say that, while it can sometimes have side effects, it has not been shown to cause serious or long-term health problems.