England plans to launch two pilot programs in the London area that will provide women with nonprescription access to birth control pills, the PA/Google.com reports. The pilot programs will begin next year in the Lambeth and Southwark primary care regions of England's National Health Service, and the results will be used to determine whether the program should be expanded across England. Under the program, women seeking nonprescription oral contraception will undergo an interview with a qualified pharmacist. Strategic health authorities -- which manage local health services under NHS -- will be required to provide pharmacists with sets of instructions known as patient group directions, including special directions for girls younger than age 16, the PA/Google.com reports. According to the PA/Google.com, patient group directions are required by law to dispense medications without a doctor's prescription and currently are used for administration of emergency contraception. The directions for dispensing EC to girls younger than 16 include a mental health assessment.The women would receive patient counseling from a nurse or pharmacist prior to receiving the pills, very similar to that which a doctor would provide. Further, this is common practice in England and other countries for many other drugs -- including emergency contraception -- meaning that pharmacists and nurses are trained and capable of providing this type of counseling. The goal is to increase access, particularly for teens, by lowering the amount of time and effort it takes to get such routine care.
Of course, like with any other medication, birth control pills do have risks associated with taking them. This is why the counseling is so important, and we'll just have to wait and see how the trial goes. You can read more about the concerns that the pilot raises, and whether they're really that worrisome, here. What are your thoughts?