The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health in the UK (APPGSRH) has launched an inquiry and call for evidence into restrictions in access to contraceptive services.
Examples have already been seen of commissioners cutting prescribing budgets for contraceptive methods to meet targets for savings, with consequences for choice and public health outcomes. In addition the Public Health Minister, Anne Milton MP, in a response to a parliamentary question tabled on contraceptive services, has recently confirmed that the Department of Health has received “representations from clinicians and voluntary sector organisations on the current commissioning of contraception by primary care trusts (PCTs) and access to certain types of contraception by certain age groups”.
On Monday 6 February, the APPGSRH held a meeting to discuss possible restrictions in access to sexual health services to residents-only and to people under 25 years old. During the meeting members of the Advisory Group on Contraception (AGC) presented the initial findings from a Freedom of Information audit which had found variations in access to contraceptive services and methods.
The APPGSRH expressed concerns at the findings from the audit, in particular:
- Evidence of commissioners restricting access to contraceptive services on the basis of age or place of residence
- The impact that the drive for efficiency savings is having on women’s choice of the full range of contraceptive methods
- Some methods of contraception only being made available with a GP referral
- The impact of changes to the commissioning structures on the continuity and quality of contraceptive care
The APPGSRH is launching this inquiry in the belief that its work can contribute to the debate about how high quality contraceptive services can be delivered in the context of the healthcare reforms; and how access to the full range of contraceptive services and methods can be improved for women of all ages.
The inquiry will bring together further evidence and understanding to the current provision of contraceptive services across the country. It will also look at uncovering examples of good practice in relation to the availability of contraceptive services which can be shared amongst new and emerging commissioners of services. We are therefore encouraging stakeholders – including commissioners, healthcare professionals and service user representatives – to submit written evidence which will help feed into the inquiry’s discussions.
Call for written evidence