A number of community pharmacies in England are taking part in a year-long pilot offering women access to ongoing oral contraception.
The NHS Community Pharmacy Contraception Management Service Pilot, which began on September 30 and will run for 12 months, is described as a “first step” in testing a model whereby pharmacies oversee the ongoing management of people taking oral contraception initiated in primary care and sexual health clinics.
In the primary care networks taking part in the pilot, pathways between existing services and community pharmacies will be established “to allow people more choice and access when considering continuing their current form of contraception”.
Women being referred through this pathway will have agreed to be referred to a community pharmacy and can continue to use other providers should they wish to.
Pharmacies will conduct clinical checks for patients who need a repeat prescription for their regular pill and “if clinically appropriate” will issue a repeat supply, as well as offering to discuss alternative contraceptive methods and advice on how a person might switch. These checks can take place in person at the pharmacy or via remote video consultation.
The pilot will be evaluated using qualitative and quantitative measures including service user experience and the experience of pharmacy staff and primary care sexual health services.
“It’s not a replacement for local authority commissioned services,” the NHS BSA stressed, though it is also exploring the possibility of community pharmacies initiating access to contraception.
The pilot is taking part in selected PCNs in the following NHS administrative regions: South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, NE Lincolnshire, Hull CCGs within Humber, Coast and Vale, Cumbria and NE, Lancashire and South Cumbria, Suffolk and NE Essex ICS and Staffordshire.
Contractors can register to provide the service if they are “in good standing” with NHS England & Improvement and are invited by NHSE&I regional teams, and are able to comply with all elements of the service including having the capacity to provide face to face appointments in a confidential consultation room.
Royal Pharmaceutical Sociaety England board chair Thorrun Govind said: “As medicines experts, pharmacists are well placed to deliver this service and support the public with healthcare advice.
“People seeking this support for contraception can be assured that pharmacists are trained to deliver contraceptive services, as seen recently with the move to offer a progestogen-only pill over the counter at pharmacies.
“The public will be able to visit a pharmacy without an appointment and receive support and advice from a trained professional, while also reducing pressure on general practice and the NHS.”