Schools should provide free morning after pills and condoms, says NICE
New guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has called for schools to offer free morning after pills and condoms to teenage girls to reduce teenage pregnancy rates. NICE even recommended those under the legal age of consent should be provided with contraception. The guidance aims for more accessible emergency contraception for under-25s; not just contraceptive pills and condoms but also the IUD (intrauterine device, or coil). The new plans will involve qualified nurses, including school nurses, and pharmacists being able to offer free-of-charge emergency contraceptive pills in accordance with patient group directions (PGDs). Under PGDs, health workers are able to give medicine directly to the patient without a prescription being required. Emergency contraceptive pills include Levonelle 1500, which if taken within 72 hours (3 days) of sexual intercourse, will usually prevent pregnancy. Levonelle 1500 can be taken following unprotected sex or if a condom has accidentally come off or split and is available right now from Medical Specialists™ Pharmacy for just £22.50. Alternatively, women can take ellaOne within 120 hours (5 days) and an IUD may be inserted up to five days following unprotected sex. The guidance called for young women to be 'encouraged to consider and choose a suitable form of contraception for their future needs'. NICE also say that in accordance with best practice guidance, health professionals that are providing emergency contraception should understand they are able to give it to under-16s even without the knowledge or consent of the child’s parent(s). “Health professionals, including pharmacists, who are unwilling (or unable) to provide emergency contraception should give young women details of other local services where they can be seen urgently”, the guidance states. Professor Mike Kelly, director of the centre for public health at NICE, said: “It is really important that sexual health services offering information and advice can be found in places where young people have access to them. Evidence clearly shows that the availability of contraception reduces the rate of unwanted pregnancies. Local planners and providers of services must make sure that what they offer is right for their area.” He added: “Young people often find contraceptive services and advice difficult to locate. This can be for a number of reasons. They may not know where services are, who provides them or when they are open. They can also be wrongly worried that information they give may not be treated confidentially. For that reason, this guidance focuses on ensuring they receive culturally sensitive, confidential, non-judgmental and empathic advice and support tailored to their individual needs.” Last month saw the Office for National Statistics release figures showing UK pregnancy rates amongst under-18s is at its lowest since 1969 at 27.9% per 1,000 women aged 15 to 17. It seems things are improving steadily with the number of pregnancies within under-18s dropping to 27,834 in 2012 from 31,051 in 2011, a decrease of around 10%. Meanwhile, 5,432 under-16s became pregnant in 2012, compared with 5,991 in 2011, a decrease of 9.3%.