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Accessing emergency contraception pills from pharmacies: the experience of young women in London


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
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