Exclusive: PCTs fail to enable third of practices to provide LARCs

One in three practices have still not been enabled to provide long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) by their PCT, a GP investigation shows.

LARCS are popular among women (Photograph: SPL)
LARCS are popular among women (Photograph: SPL)

Responses from 111 PCTs to a freedom of information request by GP newspaper showed that 35% of practices are not able to provide LARCs.

Almost all PCTs have made efforts in 2009/10 to improve provision of LARCs. Most (51%) have increased training in administering LARCs and 19% have introduced local enhanced services.

In addition, 26% have either increased funding for LARC services or audited current provision.

But access varies widely across PCTs. In 5% of trusts less than 25% of practices can provide LARCs while in 15% of trusts all practices can.

Access to contraceptive services has improved since last June, when GP revealed that just 42 of practices were offering patients a full range of contraceptives, including LARCs.

But Dr Sarah Creighton, genito-urinary consultant for City and Hackney PCT, said access still needed to expand.

‘We should aim for virtually all GPs to provide some form of LARC,' she said. ‘LARCs are cost-effective and the injectable preparations require a minimal amount of staff training to administer.'

But she stressed that PCTs' efforts so far to increase access should be recognised.

‘PCTs have prioritised LARC provision in primary care, providing training opportunities and financial incentivisation,' she said. ‘This increase should be welcomed.'

London GP Dr Sebastian Kalwij, who has an interest in women's health, said it was ‘good news' that LARC provision has expanded. ‘Failure rates are very low with LARCs and that is why more and more women rely on them.'

The fact that these forms of contraception are reversible and do not affect future fertility was an important benefit to explain to young women, he said.

Dr Kalwij added that, although training courses would be needed to learn how to insert implants, other LARCs, such as depo-provera and intrauterine devices were easier to administer.

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