Community pharmacy can help improve access to sexual health services nationwide, delegates heard at a discussion that took place during the recent RPS annual conference. 

The conference session coincided with the publication of a report from the London School of Economics that found that one in seven women in England strongly believe that more could be done to make accessing contraception convenient for them.

The report, titled Improving access to contraception – extended community pharmacy services would improve quality and outcomes, looks at how access to contraception has been rolled out in the UK and makes recommendations for how pharmacy and other health services could deliver an improved offering.

David Taylor, professor emeritus at University College London and one of the authors of the report, said: “Pharmacy bodies should get together to look at [sexual health services].” He added that this was “an important springboard for getting it right for the whole of healthcare provision from community pharmacy.”

Sanjeev Panesar from Umbrella, an organisation providing sexual health services in Birmingham and Solihull, said that commissioning services nationally offered patients a better deal than local initiatives: “We need to make sexual health services a national service rather than locally commissioned. Patients would have greater choice and improved access to a greater variety of sexual health services.”

Pharmacies are in an ideal position to offer sexual health services due to their opening hours, Mr Panesar said, adding that they’re “convenient, accessible and can provide confidential consultations”.

RPS president Ash Soni echoed Mr Panesar’s call for a national focus: “There should be a nationally commissioned service – contraception doesn’t change across the country, the demand will always be there.”

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