NHS Pharmacy Contraception Service

Contraception management and why it’s important

NHS community pharmacies are an accessible and convenient place for people to receive advice and support for contraception management.

The NHS Long Term Plan highlights the importance of NHS services complementing the action taken by local government to support the commissioning of sexual health services and exploring the future commissioning arrangements to widen access and create capacity where it is needed.

The Public Health England resource for commissioners highlighted the role community pharmacy can play supporting ongoing contraception. In areas that do not already offer commissioned contraceptive services, appropriately trained and skilled community pharmacists could provide access to their ongoing supply of their oral contraception to relieve the burden on general practice and allow GPs to concentrate on more specialist services.

In response to this, and in line with the Community pharmacy contractual framework commitment to “test a range of prevention services’, a tiered pharmacy contraception service has been designed to include:

  • Ongoing monitoring and supply of oral contraception prescriptions
  • Initiation of oral contraception

Supplies of oral contraception are made by a pharmacist via a Patient Group Direction (PGD).

The aim of the Pharmacy Contraception Service (PCS) is to offer people greater choice and access when considering starting or continuing their current form of oral contraception. The service supports the important role community pharmacy teams can play to help address health inequalities by providing wider healthcare access in their communities and signposting service users to local sexual health services. It also aims to create additional capacity in primary care and sexual health clinics (or equivalent) to support meeting the demand for more complex assessments.

From Spring 2023, pharmacies have had the option to register for the NHS Pharmacy Contraception advanced service for the ongoing supply of oral contraception. All community pharmacists offering the service will have demonstrated competence in the specific skills and knowledge required.

From 1 December 2023 the service expanded to give people the option of being able to have a confidential consultation with a community pharmacist to request a prescription of the contraceptive pill for the first time directly from their pharmacist, rather than from their GP or sexual health clinic.

The service is an integrated pathway between existing services and community pharmacies to enable greater choice and to widen access to services and support for high-risk communities and vulnerable patients.

A person may self-refer or be referred by their general practice, sexual health clinic or equivalent, to a participating pharmacy. A pharmacy may also identify a person is suitable for the service and highlight it to appropriate individuals. The pharmacist will offer a confidential consultation and as part of that, will reach a shared decision with the person on the ongoing supply of their current oral contraception, ensuring clinical appropriateness.

This is an NHS service and so the supply of oral contraception will be exempt from any prescription charges.

Individuals do not need to be registered with a GP to access this service. Pharmacies will only inform the GP practice that individuals have accessed the service, with their consent.

To be eligible to access this service a person must be an individual seeking to be initiated on an oral contraception (OC), or seeking to obtain a further supply of their ongoing OC:

  • Combined Oral Contraceptive (COC) – from menarche up to and including 49 years of age; or
  • Progestogen Only Pill (POP) – from menarche up to and including 54 years of age.

People who wish to consult another healthcare provider for contraception support are still free to do so.

To find a pharmacy delivering this service please search: Find a pharmacy that offers the contraceptive pill without a prescription – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

View the service specification and patient group directions.

Case studies