FSRH Statement: NHSE Cervical Screening Pledge and Contraceptive Pill Pharmacy Announcement – Progress to Realisation of FSRH Hatfield Vision Goals

Posted 22 November 2023

Date: 22 Nov 2023

Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements

NHS England (NHSE) has announced a pledge to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040, focusing on easy access to Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations and boosting cervical screening. NHSE has also announced plans to enable women across England to get the contraceptive pill at their local pharmacy from next month as part of the Pharmacy First scheme. We welcome both announcements, which support the delivery of Goals 3, 5 and 13 in the FSRH Hatfield Vision.

The NHS ambition to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040 could save thousands of lives every year in England. This goal for elimination can be achieved by increasing access to both the life-saving HPV vaccination and cervical screening uptake. HPV causes up to 99% of cervical cancers and is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact.

The NHS plans to make it easier to access the vaccine by making individuals’ vaccine history available on the NHS App and improving access to online vaccination appointments nationally. It also plans to increase the uptake of cervical screening, which helps prevent cervical cancer from developing by taking a sample of cells from the cervix and examining them for high-risk HPV.

This is welcome progress against Goal 13 of the FSRH Hatfield Vision which calls for each local authority area to meet the national NHS Cervical Screening Programme target of 80% coverage by 2025.

Further progress has been made with NHSE announcing plans to make the contraceptive pill available in local pharmacies without the need to speak to a practice nurse or GP first, as part of the Pharmacy First scheme.

From next month, across England, women and those who use the contraceptive pill will be able to obtain a first prescription of the pill by visiting their local pharmacy. This will give people greater choice over where to get the pill and could free up to 10 million appointments in GP surgeries according to NHSE. This proposal comes as part of a broader plan to enable patients to be treated for a range of conditions at local pharmacies.

This initiative is a positive step towards achieving Goals 3 and 5 of the FSRH Hatfield Vision, which call for enhanced access to contraceptive care for women and girls, and at a location of their choosing.

Dr Janet Barter, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:

"We are thrilled to see these announcements; the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare fully supports the expansion of contraceptive care to include prescription by pharmacists. Pharmacists are experts in medicines and well-placed to provide high quality care and advice on contraception.

These changes will increase access and make it easier to access essential contraception at a time and place that is convenient to them, giving women more autonomy over their lives allowing them to decide if and when they would like to get pregnant.

Pharmacies, GP practices, and sexual and reproductive healthcare clinics have a track record of working collaboratively to enable people to access the contraception that they need, and it is vital that there is good communication between all practitioners so that patient care is personalised, holistic, appropriate and seamless ”

NHSE’s announcement on cervical cancer elimination can be accessed here.

NHSE’s announcement on access to the contraceptive pill via pharmacies can be accessed here.

For more information on the FSRH Hatfield Vision, please see here.