Community pharmacies in Scotland will be able to provide a three-month supply of desogestrel (75 microgram film-coated tablets) as a form of bridging contraception from 9 November 2021.
Following an amendment to the Community Pharmacy Public Health Service — which was announced by the Scottish government on 23 September 2021 — pharmacists will be able to provide the medicine to patients after either an emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) consultation, or a standalone request.
According to the circular announcing the amendment, ‘bridging contraception’ is a short-term supply that can be offered to give “the client time to access their GP or sexual health services for a longer term supply”.
It is provided “to increase access to contraception and aim[s] to reduce the incidence of unplanned pregnancy”.
The service will be available to patients aged 13–55 years who are at risk of pregnancy and are currently registered with a GP in Scotland.
If a patient is unable to obtain a long-term supply within three months, pharmacists will be able to provide one additional three-month supply of desogestrel.
The document states that the service must be provided by a pharmacist who will be “responsible for ensuring that the service is welcoming, user-friendly, non-judgemental, person-centred and confidential”.
Any pharmacist who chooses not to provide a supply for “religious, moral or ethical reasons” will be “required to advise the client on an alternative local source of supply,” the document adds.
Contractors will receive £30 per consultation from the government.
The new service follows on from a trial “undertaken in a number of community pharmacies”, the document says.
The ‘Bridge-IT’ study took place in 29 community pharmacies in London, Lothian, and Tayside between December 2017 and June 2019.
A total of 636 women were recruited to the trial, in which the intervention group were given a three-month supply of desogestrel when requested and were given a rapid access card to a participating sexual and reproductive health clinic, whereas the control group were advised to attend their usual contraceptive provider.
The researchers found that the proportion of women using effective contraception after four months was 20% greater in the intervention group than in the control group.
Laura Wilson, practice and policy lead for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in Scotland, commented: “RPS Scotland fully supports greater involvement of pharmacy across all sectors in improving services for women.
“We very much welcome the introduction of this bridging service which will enable women to access a three-month supply of desogestrel for free from community pharmacies to support women’s access to contraception.”
On 8 July 2021, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved the reclassification of two desogestrel oral contraceptives from prescription-only medicines to pharmacy medicines: Lovima (75 microgram film-coated tablets) and Hana (75 microgram film-coated tablets).