FSRH press release: Medical leaders call for the reclassification of oral emergency contraception to increase accessibility

Posted 30 January 2024

Date: 30 Jan 2024

Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements

The UK’s leading sexual and reproductive healthcare body have published a statement calling for the reclassification of oral emergency contraception from a Pharmacy (P) medicine to General Sales List (GSL). This would enable oral emergency contraception to be purchased from general retail outlets, from supermarkets to petrol stations, removing barriers and improving access for all

Representing 14,000 healthcare professionals the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) supports universal provision of free, accessible oral emergency contraception across the UK, without fear of harassment or stigma.

The position was recently passed by the Council of the FSRH and has been officially endorsed by eight leading organisations in the sector, The Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine (FPM), The Faculty of Public Health (FPH), The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), MSI Reproductive Choices, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), the National Unplanned Pregnancy Advisory Service (NUPAS) and Brook.

Dr Janet Barter, President of the Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare said:

“Access to contraception is such a basic human right and it is high time we begin to remove the barriers people face accessing oral emergency contraception. We want to make oral emergency contraception free and easily accessible to everyone who needs it, at a time and place that suits them, be that in a supermarket or their local sexual health clinic.

“It is so important that people can take full control of their own contraceptive needs. We believe that the reclassification of oral emergency contraception from a pharmacy medicine to general sales list would be an enormous step forward, giving people autonomy and empowering them to make the right decision for themselves. The next important step in the process to improve access to oral emergency contraception would be to make it free for everyone.

“Currently oral emergency contraception is available in pharmacies after a mandatory consultation with a pharmacist. This consultation can be very valuable, but the requirement does pose a barrier for some people, particularly on evenings, Sundays or national holidays when most pharmacies are shut. At the end of the day, oral emergency contraception is a very safe medication. However, it must be taken within a window of 3-5 days, and the sooner it is taken the more effective it is. It really is of utmost importance that people can pick it up as soon as possible.”


For further information, please contact: Lorna Kelly, External Affairs Communication & Policy Manager, at 07895267205 / lkelly@fsrh.org

Notes to Editors

  •  Around 45% pregnancies in Britain are unplanned or ambivalent[1].
  • The abortion rate is the highest on record. The most recent statistics show that abortion rates have increased by 17% from January-June 2022, compared to the same period in 2021[2].
  • Emergency contraception should be used as and when it is needed however, it should not replace ongoing contraception methods e.g. LARC, contraceptive pill etc and it is important that people are able to access the full range of contraceptive options local to them.

Securing the reclassification of emergency contraception is a priority workstream for the FSRH Hatfield Vision (FHV) Taskforce and in order to progress this, we launched the FHV Taskforce Implementation Working Group (IWG) - Reclassification of Emergency Contraception as GSL medicine last June. The working group is made up of organisations across the sector alongside experts in the field.

The FSRH Position Statement on Emergency Contraception has been endorsed by 8 leading organisations across the sector:

About FSRH

The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the leader in the field of sexual and reproductive healthcare, and we are the voice for 14,000 professionals working in this area. As a multi-disciplinary professional membership organisation, we set clinical guidance and standards, provide training and lifelong education, and champion safe and effective sexual and reproductive healthcare across the life course for all. 

[1] Wellings, K. et.al 2013. The prevalence of unplanned pregnancy and associated factors in Britain: findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3). Lancet 382(9907): 1807–1816.
[2] Office of Health Improvement and Disparities Abortion Statistics for England and Wales: January to June 2022