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Accessing emergency contraception pills from pharmacies: the experience of young women in London
  1. Gillian Turnbull1,
  2. Rachel H Scott2,
  3. Sue Mann3,
  4. Kaye Wellings4
  1. 1 N/A, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  2. 2 Department of Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, London, UK
  3. 3 Reproductive Health, Public Health England, London, UK
  4. 4 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Gillian Turnbull, Vancouver, Canada; gorlikowturnbull{at}


Introduction Over-the-counter provision of emergency contraception pills (ECP) has increased since deregulation of progestogen-only formulations and is now the most common public health service provided by UK pharmacists. Important questions relate to women’s perceptions of their experience of receiving ECPs from pharmacists.

Methods Qualitative study: in-depth interviews with young women reporting ECP use, recruited from clinic (10); pharmacy (6) and community settings (5) in London.

Results Key advantages of pharmacy provision were ease and speed of access and convenience. Disadvantages included a less personal service, inadequate attention to information needs and to prevention of recurrence of ECP need, and unsupportive attitudes of pharmacy staff. Suggested service improvements included increasing privacy, providing more contraceptive advice, adopting a more empathetic approach and signposting follow-up services.

Conclusion Pharmacies are important in the choice of settings from which ECPs can be obtained and many aspects of pharmacy provision are appreciated by young women. There is scope to further enhance pharmacists’ role.

  • emergency contraception
  • adolescents
  • young people
  • qualitative research
  • pharmacies

Statistics from


  • Contributors GT, RS and KW designed the study; RS and GT conducted the interviews; all authors contributed to the analysis of the results and to the writing of the manuscript.

  • Funding This research was part funded by a grant from the Health Protection Research Units.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement The young person’s clinic is not under the direction of the NHS. The management and clinical team at the centre reviewed and approved the project. Participants reviewed and signed consent forms before interviews began.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) MSc Research Ethics Committee (ref: 10823), the LSHTM Observational/Interventions Research Ethics Committee (ref: 13420) and the clinical governance lead for the high street pharmacies.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available. The data were collected as part of a qualitative study and are not available for sharing beyond the research team.

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