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Opinion, Comment & Reviews
  Over the counter emergency contraception in Manchester
By Ellie Lee

Women in Manchester can obtain emergency contraception without a prescription under a government-sponsored pilot programme which aims to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. The scheme, being run by the Manchester, Trafford and Salford Health Action Zone, was launched on Christmas Eve last year.

Until now the morning-after pill has only been available by prescription from a GP or from a family planning centre. The trial, which has the backing of the Department of Health, will run until the end of March.

A spokesman for the health action zone told the news agency PA News: 'Sixteen pharmacies are taking part in the pilot across the area, which has some of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in the country.' 'The pharmacists are supplying the drug, not prescribing it'. 'They have all undergone very rigorous training. They are taught a protocol which is a series of questions the women will be asked'. 'The questions are detailed and complex and if she does not answer them satisfactorily she will be refused the drug and advised to contact her GP'. 'Those to whom the drug is given must take it on the premises.' He said the 10-minute consultation is carried out in a private area of the pharmacy. Before the pill is handed out the woman is asked to sign a consent form. So far, only 18 women have used the service, BBC News on-line reports.

The current emergency contraceptive drug is said to prevent 75 per cent of pregnancies if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is backing the programme. President Christine Glover told The Express: 'We welcome the Manchester scheme which allows women access to this safe and effective form of emergency contraception combined with expert pharmaceutical care and advice.' Not everyone is pleased with the effort, as some believe it will encourage casual sex. Valerie Riches of Family and Youth Concern said, 'It encourages people not to take responsibility for their actions because the state will pick up the pieces. It will be an excuse for people, especially boys, not to use contraception, which will lead to an increase in [STDs].'

The pilot scheme will be evaluated before a decision is made on whether to extend it.

Guardian 8/1/00: 'Morning-after pill trial hailed as success'
Times 8/1/00: 'Morning-after pill offered free'
Daily Telegraph 8/1/00: 'Morning-after pill supplied free'
Express 8/1/00: 'Chemists hand out morning-after pill'
PA News and BBC News on-line 10/1/00
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