1. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has said under-25s, including those under the age of consent, should have better access to emergency contraception.
The plans, aimed at reducing teenage pregnancies in England, say suitably qualified nurses, including school nurses, should have the ability to dispense free emergency contraceptive pills in accordance with patient group directions (PGDs).
Nice states free condoms should also be “readily accessible” for young men and women at places such as “schools, colleges and youth clubs”.
2. Handing out contraception in advance of intercourse is not uncommon but women could now be able to obtain the morning-after pill in bulk on the NHS for the first time.
3. Commenting on the guidelines, Professor Mike Kelly, director of the centre for public health at Nice, said:
It is really important that sexual health services offering information and advice can be found in places where young people have access to them.
Evidence clearly shows that the availability of contraception reduces the rate of unwanted pregnancies.
Local planners and providers of services must make sure that what they offer is right for their area.
However there has been some criticism of the plans, with Josephine Quintavalle, from the pressure group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, telling the Telegraph: “I think it is really worrying and deeply unwise.
“Having a stockpile of the morning-after pill on hand is a licence for unprotected sex, and that puts young women at increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases.”
5. Roger Goss, from Patient Concern, added: “It seems like a way of promoting promiscuity.”
6. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is also said to be opposed to the plans.
The Nice guidance though moves to dispel that claim by stating: “The evidence shows that advance provision of oral emergency contraception does not encourage risky behaviour among young people.
“Evidence also shows that women who have emergency contraception in advance are more likely to use it, and to use it sooner after unprotected sex.”
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show the number of pregnancies in those under the age of 18 fell to 27,835 in 2012, compared with 31,051 the year before.