Women’s health services will be provided by community pharmacies in Scotland as part of new plans laid out by the Scottish government.
Published on 20 August 2021, ‘Women’s health plan: a plan for 2021–2024‘ sets out short-, medium- and long-term actions that healthcare providers in the nation will take to improve women’s health and address health inequalities.
The wider plan covers areas such as sexual health, menstrual health and menopause, endometriosis and heart health. It details actions including the establishment of a national women’s health champion and the appointment of a women’s health lead for each NHS board.
As part of its long-term actions, the government said it will “provide and promote a ‘women’s health’ community pharmacy service”.
In addition — to meet the government’s priority of “improv[ing] access to contraception services, including rapid and easily accessible postnatal contraception” — pharmacies will “provide more routine sexual healthcare … to enable specialist sexual health services to prioritise those most at risk of sexual ill health or unintended pregnancy”.
In a foreword to the plan, Maree Todd, Scottish minister for public health, women’s health and sport and a former mental health pharmacist, said that “when we provide high-quality information and education on menstrual health, young women and girls are empowered to understand what is ‘normal’ and when they need to ask for help”.
“When women are well informed and supported about the menopause, they can make informed choices about what they need, in healthcare, in the workplace and beyond. When research includes women, medicine can become more equitable.”
Laura Wilson, practice and policy lead for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in Scotland, said the Society was “delighted” to see the plan.
“Our policy statement on women’s health, which was published earlier [in 2021], was drafted in consultation with pharmacists in Scotland, and we shared our work with the Scottish government ahead of publication of its plan.
“Pharmacists and pharmacy teams already provide vital support and advice for women but we believe that with additional collaboration, support and resource, much more is possible,” she said.
“We fully support greater involvement of pharmacy across all sectors in improving services for women, and are encouraged that a patient group direction is currently being developed in Scotland which will enable women to access desogestrel for free from community pharmacies.”
In July 2021, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved two brands of progestogen-only contraceptive pills, containing desogestrel, to buy in community pharmacies in the UK without a prescription.