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Lack of access to contraception ‘failing women’, says top doctor

Posted on the 26th June 2023

Contraception Pills

The women’s health ambassador for England has said that UK women are being ‘failed’ by a lack of access to contraceptive services.

Professor Lesley Regan, a leading gynaecologist, blames ‘destructive’ changes made to the NHS system in 2012, which siloed GP surgeries from hospitals, for women finding it harder to access contraception than they did a decade ago.

She called for GPs to receive more training in contraception, describing the £25m funding earmarked recently for women’s health hubs in England as ‘a drop in the ocean’.

Speaking as part of a Channel 4 documentary, Pill Revolution, examining the barriers to contraception access, Professor Regan criticized the NHS’ preoccupation with cost as counterproductive, stating that ‘contraception is the single most cost-effective invention in healthcare’.

She also attributed an increase in unplanned pregnancies to a disjointed system and significantly delayed procedures: “If you’re not commissioned to deal with the problem, there’s no incentive to do a job properly. Contraception has got to be everybody’s business and up until this moment it’s been nobody’s responsibility, and no one’s been accountable for it.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated delays in contraception provision, with one study showing that the number of people unable to access appointments rose from 0.6% before lockdown to 6.5% after lockdown.

Freedom of information requests have shown that the average woman waits over a month for a coil insertion appointment. Longer delays are prevalent in other parts of the UK, with women living in Northern Ireland facing waits of more than a year.

Figures from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health show that 45% of pregnancies in England are unplanned, with one in four pregnancies ending in termination.

A Department of Health and Social Care statement said: “We published a women’s health strategy for England and recently announced £25m for women’s health hubs – enabling women across the country to benefit from better access to care for essential services including contraception.

“We’re also providing more than £3.5bn this financial year to local authorities to fund public health services – including sexual and reproductive health services. This will increase to £3.58bn in 2024-25.”

Related: Men and women receiving different advice on heart disease

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