The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) announcement today regarding the launch of a Pharmacy First service in England and the expansion of existing blood pressure and contraception services as set out in the Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care is welcome news this Self Care Week.
By the end of 2023, almost half a million women will be able to get the contraceptive pill from pharmacies in England, without the need for a GP appointment.
Responding to this news, Michelle Riddalls, CEO of PAGB, the consumer healthcare association, said:
“Expanding contraceptive services as part of the Pharmacy First scheme is an important step in helping women take control of their reproductive health without having to see a GP. It’s also a reminder to make use of the highly trained health professionals right on our doorstep – our community pharmacists. Pharmacists are often under-utilised healthcare experts who can give advice on potential treatments including over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. Almost 90 per cent of the population of England live within a 20 minute walk of a pharmacy*, and given they tend to have longer opening hours, community pharmacies offer more flexibility, particularly for women who might otherwise struggle to receive expert healthcare advice around work and family commitments.
“This latest announcement follows the reclassification or ‘switching’ of progestogen-only contraceptive pills, Hana and Lovima, in 2021, which was another significant milestone providing women with easier access to a range of safe and effective contraceptive products.
“We welcome any moves made by the Government to help ease the burden on our over-stretched NHS services. We know from our own research how difficult it can be for people to get a GP appointment, with some people turning to A&E as a result, often for minor health conditions that could be treated at home.
“During Self Care Week, PAGB is reminding everyone to take care of themselves and the NHS by managing self-treatable conditions at home. We all have a responsibility to ease pressure on our NHS. Increasing the number of medicines available over the counter, including contraceptives, encourages self-care and enables people to make informed choices on their sexual and reproductive health.”