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Give women ‘right to get morning-after pill in supermarkets and petrol stations’

Women across the UK should be able to get the morning-after pill off the shelf in supermarkets and petrol stations, sexual health leaders have said (Alamy/PA)
Women across the UK should be able to get the morning-after pill off the shelf in supermarkets and petrol stations, sexual health leaders have said (Alamy/PA)

Women across the UK should be able to get the morning-after pill off the shelf in supermarkets and petrol stations, sexual health leaders have said.

The call from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, which represents 14,000 health workers, is backed by other organisations including the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine and the Faculty of Public Health.

In a statement, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare said oral emergency contraception should be reclassified from a pharmacy medicine to one for general sale.

It would mean women could get it in far more places rather than having to undergo a consultation with a pharmacist or visit a sexual health clinic or GP.

Dr Janet Barter, president of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, said: “Access to contraception is such a basic human right and it is high time we begin to remove the barriers people face accessing oral emergency contraception.

“We want to make oral emergency contraception free and easily accessible to everyone who needs it, at a time and place that suits them, be that in a supermarket or their local sexual health clinic.

“It is so important that people can take full control of their own contraceptive needs.

“We believe that the reclassification of oral emergency contraception from a pharmacy medicine to general sales list would be an enormous step forward, giving people autonomy and empowering them to make the right decision for themselves.

“The next important step in the process to improve access to oral emergency contraception would be to make it free for everyone.”

Dr Barter said consultations with pharmacists can be valuable “but the requirement does pose a barrier for some people, particularly on evenings, Sundays or national holidays when most pharmacies are shut”.

She added: “At the end of the day, oral emergency contraception is a very safe medication.

“However, it must be taken within a window of three to five days, and the sooner it is taken the more effective it is.

“It really is of utmost importance that people can pick it up as soon as possible.”

The position statement is also backed by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the National Unplanned Pregnancy Advisory Service and Brook.