The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) has called on NHS England and other healthcare bodies to establish a single national pharmacy specification for emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) services to be used by all healthcare commissioners in England.
It also suggested making the commissioning process part of the enhanced services element of community pharmacy’s NHS contractual framework, which is currently being negotiated, and called for a training requirement for all areas in which the service is commissioned.
In evidence submitted to the All-Party Pharmacy Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health in the UK’s ongoing inquiry into access to contraception in England, the CCA — which represents major multiples and supermarkets including Boots, LloydsPharmacy, and Rowlands Pharmacy — highlighted the geographical variation in commissioning and service specifications, which it said is leading to inconsistencies in care.
“We believe that there is an urgent need for a national standard of EHC service specification to be commissioned locally to address these variabilities and improve accessibility,” the CCA’s response to the inquiry said.
“Currently, the variety in commissioning of services and service specifications can lead to uncertainty for patients and may prevent some people from accessing contraception in their pharmacy, creating a burden on other healthcare settings, as well as increasing unplanned pregnancies and abortion rates.”
It added: “[Community pharmacies are] well-placed to provide excellent sexual health services, including contraception, to the communities they serve.
“We agree that allowing women access to ongoing contraception directly from their community pharmacy would greatly benefit many patients as well as improving NHS efficiencies.”
The CCA also welcomed enhanced use of pharmacist independent prescribers and/or patient group directions to remove the need for patients to visit a GP or clinic to obtain ongoing contraception.
“This would be much more convenient for patients who may reach the end of a prescription and find that they have to wait for a GP appointment, causing a period of time without their normal form of contraception.”