Young women under the age of 20 who require emergency contraceptives will now be able to obtain them free of charge from one of 17 pharmacies across NHS Greater Glasgow.
The community pharmacy-based scheme, which will be piloted over the next year, is an extension of existing free emergency contraception services available via GPs, local A&E departments and sexual health centres.
Nicky Coia, Senior Health Promotion Officer with NHS Greater Glasgow, said: "There's nothing new in this concept. Young women have, for many years, been able to obtain free emergency contraceptives from their GP, local A&E or sexual health centre and similar pharmacy-based schemes already operate in other NHS board areas including Lothian, Grampian and Fife.
"What we're doing is making emergency contraceptive services more easily available to young women who may not, for their own reasons, feel they can go to their doctor or local hospital."
Nicky revealed that the emergency contraceptive would not be available 'on demand'. Individuals seeking emergency contraceptives would undergo a personal consultation with the pharmacist before any decision on treatment is taken.
"All pharmacists taking part in the pilot scheme have undergone specific training and will adhere to very strict guidelines, particularly when it comes to young people. There's no question of a young woman approaching a pharmacist for emergency contraception and simply being handed the pills with no questions asked.
"Everyone who asks for emergency contraceptives will be given a personal consultation. The decision to provide emergency contraception will then be made on an individual basis. In addition, pharmacists will have the ability to refer women to their local GP or local sexual health centre if they feel they require additional information, advice or support."
Feedback from existing pharmacy-based schemes in other parts of the country suggests that the vast majority of women who access these services are over the age of 16 and only a small minority (less that 10%) are under the age of 16.
The pharmacy- based pilot scheme will be monitored and evaluated before any decisions on the future development of emergency contraception services across NHS Greater Glasgow are made.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
What is the emergency contraceptive and how does it work?
The product contains progestogen, the female hormone contained in other contraceptive products, either by itself or in combination with oestrogen. In simple terms, it acts by delaying the release of an egg from the ovaries, increasing the viscosity of mucous to prevent sperm from reaching an already released egg and also by preventing implantation of the fertilised egg on the endometrium, hence the need for tablets to be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. It is not effective once implantation has occurred and as such is not considered as an abortificant.
Currently, women aged 16 and over can buy emergency contraceptives at local pharmacists for £25.
Women, including those under the age of 16, can also access free emergency contraceptives from their GP, A&E department and sexual health centre.
All pharmacists taking part in the scheme are fully trained. As well as being fully aware of their legal responsibilities to their patients, they are also bound by their professional bodies' code of ethic and NHS Greater Glasgow's multi-agency child protection policy. This means that no decision regarding the health and wellbeing of a young person is taken lightly.
All young women aged under 16 accessing the service will be encouraged to speak to their parents however they cannot be forced to do so and pharmacists, like all health professionals, have a legal duty to respect the confidentiality of their patients.
Pharmacists taking part in the year long pilot are:
* Apple Pharmacy, 1000 Cathcart Road, GLASGOW
* Boots the Chemists, Queen St Station, Dundas Street, GLASGOW
* Craigton Pharmacy, 2-4 Craigton Road, Govan, GLASGOW
* Dickson Chemists, 33 Mitchell Arcade, GLASGOW
* Gilbrides, 323 Paisley Road West, GLASGOW
* J A Hogarth Chemists Ltd, 308 Crow Road, GLASGOW
* Lloyds, 63 Kinfauns Drive, GLASGOW
* Liddlesdale, 59 Liddlesdale Square, GLASGOW
* Lloyds Pharmacy, 1851 Paisley Road West, GLASGOW
* Moss, 61b Main Street, ThornliebanK, GLASGOW
* Moss, 693 Great Western Road, GLASGOW
* Moss, 48 North Elgin Street, CLYDEBANK
* Nigel Kelly Pharmacy, 9 Croftfoot Road, GLASGOW
* Possil Pharmacy, 171-173 Saracen Street, GLASGOW
* Red Road Pharmacy, 51 Red Road Court, GLASGOW
* Rowlands, 69 Gilbertfield Street, GLASGOW
* Pharmacy within Morrison Stores, 117 Riverford Road, GLASGOW
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