Pharmacists should promote their "non-judgmental" contraceptive services to women embarrassed about seeking help, a sexual health charity has said.
The Family Planning Association (FPA) encouraged pharmacies to display posters advertising that women could receive a private consultation to discuss their "wider contraceptive needs" for yesterday's (September 15) launch of Sexual Health Week, which is concentrating on emergency contraception.
Survey results published by the FPA last month revealed that more than one in three women were embarrassed to ask for emergency contraception. Pharmacies should ensure all their staff were "equipped with communication skills" to help women overcome this issue, said the charity.
It was important to ask "open-ended questions" to give women an opportunity to talk about wider issues and concerns relating to contraception, the charity said. It also advised pharmacists to stay up-to-date with current guidance and be aware of any local schemes providing free contraception to particular groups, it said.
The FPA said pharmacists were in a "unique position" to reduce a perceived stigma about contraception and enable women to "confidently make the best choices for them".
"Customers of varying ages, cultures and backgrounds have different needs. Be prepared to talk to older people - who might not have been exposed to sexual health messaging - through to young people, and be aware of associated issues like safeguarding and limits of confidentiality," it added.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Ash Soni agreed it was "vital" the whole pharmacy team was trained to make women feel comfortable and deal with this sensitive issue.
"Visual presence, such as leaflets and posters, is also important as it makes customers aware of the service and more likely to ask for advice," he said.
Anyone who sought emergency contraception from a pharmacist following a contraceptive failure or unprotected sex was acting responsibly, Mr Soni stressed.
Pharmacists can download a campaign pack - including posters, leaflets and tips for engaging with customers - from the FPA's website.