The Pill is the most popular method of contraception among Scottish women, with around one quarter taking it regularly, but until now this has meant regular trips to a doctor’s surgery for prescriptions and check-ups.
Now, in a scheme that health officials hope will cut unwanted pregnancies, women can simply get the contraceptive straight from a specially trained pharmacist, even if she has never taken it before.
A pharmacy in Aberdeen has become the first in the country to prescribe the Pill after being given the go-ahead by its local NHS board.
The scheme, which is being run by a branch of Boots the Chemist in the city’s Bon Accord shopping centre, is being monitored by the Scottish Government and could be rolled out across Scotland if deemed a success. Similar schemes in England have shown a drop in the number of women asking for emergency contraception in pharmacies which offer the service.
The revelation follows a report by an English health board last week that girls as young as 13 should be given the contraceptive Pill straight from pharmacies. The Scottish scheme will only be available to women aged 16 or over to avoid moral and ethical objections.
A spokeswoman for NHS Grampian explained its scheme involved a specially trained pharmacist prescribing the drug for women deemed suitable following medical checks, including weight and blood pressure.
She added: “The pharmacist would make a risk assessment, and can prescribe oral contraception to meet the clinical need of the patient, without requiring previous prescription, or they can repeat an existing prescription.
“The pharmacist also checks the person’s height and weight, advises on sexual health and well-being and advises on smoking and sends the woman’s GP information on the consultation.”
Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman Nanette Milne said: “However uncomfortable it may be, the important thing is that women are able to access sexual protection. But access should be accompanied by informed advice and it is essential this is provided either by a GP or a community pharmacy.”
The contraceptive Pill is generally viewed by family planning specialists as a safe and reliable method of contraception, provided women take it regularly and they are in good health.
It can also reduce the risk of some cancers of the ovaries and womb. However, minor side-effects can include headaches, mood swings, nausea, rises in blood pressure and weight gain. Rare, but serious, complications can include blood clots, heart attacks and strokes