Lack of contraceptive choice

Exclusive - Drop in women offered choice of contraception.

The number of women being offered a choice of contraceptives has fallen by a third over the past two years, despite a DoH drive to increase the number of options for women, GP can reveal.

The DoH has invested £20.5 million this year to promote the use of contraception, including £7 million on raising the profile of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), in an attempt to tackle the high teenage pregnancy rates in England.

NICE estimates that switching just 7 per cent of women from oral contraceptives to LARCs could prevent 73,000 unwanted pregnancies each year.

But the findings of a survey of 513 UK women, aged 16-49, conducted by the market research agency Harris Interactive and funded by Bayer Schering Pharma, found that only a third of women have been offered a choice of contraceptives.

Results of the same survey, conducted in 2007, found that over half of all women were offered a choice of contraceptives.

In June a GP investigation revealed that less than half of practices in England are offering patients a full range of contraceptives, with PCTs offering no training for GPs on IUDs and implants.

Dr Sarah Jarvis, west London GP and spokeswoman for the RCGP, said that the findings highlighted a 'desperately sad' situation.

'We all know that giving out the contraceptive pill is the easy option, but in practice the pill is less than 88 per cent effective. LARCs are much more effective.

'Perhaps introducing more incentives into the QOF could help to improve the situation.'

Currently, the QOF offers three sexual health indicators worth just 10 points.

Dr Jarvis warned that some PCTs were restricting the use of coils in order to save money.

Dr Tina Peers, a consultant in contraception and sexual Health for Surrey PCT, added: 'Not offering a full range of contraceptive choice is going to immediately limit the effectiveness of campaigns to reduce unintended pregnancies and rates of abortion.'

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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