Pharmacies in Bradford and Airedale are among the first in the country to offer the five-day emergency contraceptive ellaOne without a prescription, in what local pharmacists and GPs described as a valuable way of allowing young women to "rapidly access" emergency contraception.
About 26 pharmacies in Bradford and Airedale are now offering the drug, which can be taken up to five days after sex, as part of their NHS emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) services, meaning it is free to women under the age of 25.
The addition to the patient group direction (PGD) service, organised by the LPC Community Pharmacy West Yorkshire (CPWY) and NHS Bradford and Airedale, means pharmacists have an extra 48 hours to treat women who have had unprotected sex. The alternative treatment Levonelle can only be supplied up to 72 hours following unprotected sex.
About 26 pharmacies in Bradford and Airedale are now offering ellaOne as part of their NHS EHC services
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"Having the service available in a convenient environment, without the need for an appointment and free of charge is such a valuable way to allow young women to rapidly access emergency contraception when they need it," said local pharmacist Judith Collins.
And Anne Connolly, lead GP for sexual health in Bradford and Airedale, agreed: "This will improve the care for women requiring emergency contraception and improve access as many pharmacies are open into the evenings and over the weekends."
Pharmacies could now provide the service in line with other providers such as GPs and Bradford and Airdale Sexual Health Services, said CPWY service development manager Ruth Buchan.
"For me, it's around the fact that it's not just around using the service from day four and five, it's allowing pharmacies to provide ellaOne in line with other contraceptive services," she said.
Bradford and Airedale pharmacists delivering the EHC service provide a consultation on the use of emergency contraception, as well as advice on ongoing contraception options, safer sex and sexual health screening.
Patients over 25 requesting ellaOne should either be offered Levonelle over the counter or referred to their GP or the local contraception and sexual health service, Ms Buchan told C+D.
"NHS EHC services delivered by community pharmacies are well-used where they are available so it is good to see these remaining a priority for local health commissioners," said PSNC head of NHS services Alastair Buxton.
"With so much uncertainty around local health services at the moment, it's also heartening to see that, in some areas, LPCs' hard work is paying off and pharmacy services are still being developed and expanded," he added.
The Co-operative became the first pharmacy company to offer the ellaOne pill without a prescription in October last year. It is also available through the NPA PGD scheme developed in conjunction with Day Lewis, due to be made available for other members to buy this month.
Pharmacists in the Bradford and Airedale area needed to receive training and accreditation before providing the EHC service, said CPWY. They can do this by contacting CPWY at [email protected]
Will you be buying the NPA PGD to dispense ellaOne prescription-free?