In the latest bid to curb teenage pregnancy rates ministers have announced they will allow pharmacists to give out the contraceptive pill without a doctor’s assessment.
With the Government still looking unlikely to meet its own target for cutting teenage pregnancy rates, campaigners have said this is a cynical move that misses the point.
It follows news last month that girls in teenage pregnancy hotspots were to be encouraged to take up the offer of long term contraceptive injections.
The idea will be piloted in two areas in London. Pharmacists will have special training for face-to-face consultations with women seeking the pill.
The scheme will only be available to over-16s at first, but girls below that age may be included later on.
Doctors have warned that the contraceptive pill carries the risk of side-effects, and say that a full consultation is needed to avoid potential problems.
They also say that such appointments give GPs an opportunity to discuss protection against sexually transmitted infections, which a chemist might be less able to do.
But health minister Lord Darzi backed the new plan as “probably the easiest route from a patient’s perspective”.
Norman Wells, of the pressure group Family and Youth Concern, said: “This initiative shows yet again that the Government is more interested in getting young people to use contraception than it is in discouraging them from engaging in sexual activity in the first place.
“There is no evidence that increasing young people’s access to contraception results in lower teenage conception rates or reduces abortion rates.”