Ministers to push long-term contraception

The government wants more women to choose long-term contraception, such as the hormonal implant or injection, as part of a bid to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

The Department of Health (DoH) has launched a £26.8 million drive encouraging local health teams to promote the full range of contraceptives available, including long-acting reversible contraception (Larc) alongside condoms and the daily contraceptive pill.

Ministers believe encouraging younger women to have contraceptive implants or injections could reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies as there is less risk of human error.

In 2005, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice) identified this as a key benefit of Larcs and said they should be more heavily promoted.

Public health minister Dawn Primarolo said: “There is increasing evidence of the key role contraception plays in preventing teenage pregnancy.

“We need to use this evidence and improve access to the full range of methods of contraception in many areas, particularly those with high and increasing rates of teenage pregnancy and high rates of abortion.”

Strategic Health Authorities will be allocated £14 million to find new ways of helping young people access sexual health advice. Proposals approved by ministers will receive funding for pilot projects.

Ms Primarolo continued: “This is just one part of the government’s strategy on sexual health. We are working to educate young people about the dangers of STIs and will be launching a new national information campaign later in the year on the range of contraceptive choices available to young people.”

The government also wants abortion clinics to offer contraception and information in a bid to prevent repeat abortions and is also advocating ‘condom kiosks’ in pharmacies.

DoH figures show around 11 per cent of sexually active women do not use any contraception while the abortion rate is highest among 20 to 24-year-olds.

The Family Planning Association (fpa) welcomed the drive, arguing Larcs are more appropriate to modern women’s lifestyles.

Julie Bentley, fpa chief executive: “[Larcs are] among the most effective contraceptive methods in preventing pregnancy; once fitted women don’t need to think about using them and, with the exception of the injection, a woman’s fertility returns straight away once they’re removed.

“Because Larcs are so effective they also offer real cost savings to women and the NHS because there is less unplanned pregnancy and abortion.”