Access to contraception has got harder in England, top doctor says

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Women are uncovering it harder to entree contraception than they did a decennary ago, resulting successful much unplanned pregnancies, the women’s wellness ambassador has said.

They person been discouraged by atrocious experiences, a confusingly disjointed strategy and agelong delays for procedures specified arsenic the coil oregon implant insertion, according to Prof Lesley Regan, a starring gynaecologist who was appointed women’s wellness ambassador for England past year.

She said that “destructive” changes made to the NHS commissioning strategy successful England successful 2012, which siloed GP surgeries from hospitals, were failing women. “If you’re not commissioned to woody with the problem, there’s nary inducement to bash a occupation decently … Contraception has got to beryllium everybody’s concern and up until this infinitesimal it’s been nobody’s work and nary one’s been accountable for it.”

She added that the NHS preoccupation with outgo was counterproductive arsenic “contraception is the azygous astir cost-effective involution successful healthcare”. She is pushing to get the progesterone-only pill, which took a decennary to go disposable implicit the counter, made escaped successful pharmacies truthful less women “fall done the cracks”.

Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health probe shows that 45% of pregnancies successful England are unplanned, and 1 successful 4 pregnancies ends successful termination, according to ONS figures for England and Wales.

Regan hopes that the women’s wellness hubs, for which the authorities has earmarked £25m nether the women’s wellness strategy for England, volition amended the situation, partially by replacing the intersexual wellness and household readying clinics, which person been cut. But she acknowledged the backing was “a driblet successful the ocean” and uncovering ways to bid much GPs successful contraception and dissolving the obstruction betwixt wide practice, clinics and hospitals was besides crucial.

“We person to get the backing overmuch little stultified into these silos and accidental women person to get what they request and past wrapper services astir them. I don’t spot wherefore you request to spell to 4 antithetic appointments to get your HRT, your mirena [coil] changed, your smear test, erstwhile you could get it each done successful 1 appointment,” she said.

She gave the illustration of idiosyncratic who arrived astatine a peculiar session for play problems. They could beryllium fixed a mirena coil for achy oregon dense periods, but would not beryllium capable to person it for contraception, due to the fact that that’s not what the session is commissioned for.

Regan was speaking arsenic portion of a Q&A with participants successful Davina McCall’s caller documentary, Pill Revolution. McCall is hoping to bash for contraception what her documentaries successful 2021 and 2022 did for the menopause, unleashing a “Davina effect”, which accrued consciousness of symptoms and treatments and resulted successful a tenfold summation successful NHS prescriptions for HRT.

McCall feels the existent strategy – successful which women conflict to entree broad accusation connected options and their imaginable broadside effects, and usage proceedings and mistake to find what works – is nary longer acceptable for purpose.

She is hoping her documentary volition punctual a “tsunami of involvement and questioning” among women to physique unit for alteration and situation the misperception that due to the fact that contraception efficaciously prevents gestation determination is nary request for improvement. “We’re talking astir a speech that has to beryllium a revolution,” she said, adding that astatine the extremity of filming the documentary she felt “really fucking aggravated but besides afloat of hope”.

A survey of 4,000 women undertaken for the amusement recovered that 77% of women had experienced broadside effects aft taking the pill, portion 33% had changed their contraception arsenic a result.

The documentary besides looks astatine the barriers to accessing contraception. Dr Fran Yarlett, GP and aesculapian manager astatine The Lowdown, which features successful the documentary, said that the pandemic had exacerbated agelong waits for contraception, with one study showing that the fig of radical incapable to entree contraception has accrued from 0.6% pre-lockdown to 6.5% post-lockdown.

Freedom of accusation requests undertaken for the documentary showed that astir women hold much than a period for an assignment to get their coil inserted, with longer delays successful immoderate parts of the country, including waits of much than a twelvemonth successful Devon and Northern Ireland.

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Many women person go fearful of coil insertion aft speechmaking fearfulness stories astir pain. The documentary shows McCall having her mirena coil changed onscreen by Regan to show the process does not person to beryllium painful, though McCall acknowledged she benefited from symptom alleviation and a highly experienced practitioner.

In her bid to find ways for women to much easy find contraception that works for them, McCall visited Dama Health, a startup that is looking to make a trial that establishes whether women person a familial susceptibility to definite broadside effects.

She was exasperated that it should instrumentality a backstage institution to bash this: “The truly large happening that’s travel retired of each documentary that I’ve made is the monolithic achromatic spread that is determination wherever probe into women’s wellness should be,” McCall said.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We published a women’s wellness strategy for England and precocious announced £25m for women’s wellness hubs – enabling women crossed the state to payment from amended entree to attraction for indispensable services including contraception.

“It’s present easier for women to entree contraception done the NHS Pharmacy Contraception Service, with pharmacists capable to proviso oral contraception without the request for a medicine from a GP.

“We’re besides providing much than £3.5bn this fiscal twelvemonth to section authorities to money nationalist wellness services – including intersexual and reproductive wellness services. This volition summation to £3.58bn successful 2024-25.”

Davina McCall’s Pill Revolution volition beryllium shown connected Thursday 8 June astatine 9pm connected Channel 4.