Accessing emergency contraception pills from pharmacies: The experience of young women in London

Gillian Turnbull*, Rachel H. Scott, Sue Mann, Kaye Wellings

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Over-the-counter provision of emergency contraception pills (ECP) has increased since deregulation of progestogen-only formulations and is now the most common public health service provided by UK pharmacists. Important questions relate to women's perceptions of their experience of receiving ECPs from pharmacists.

Methods: Qualitative study: in-depth interviews with young women reporting ECP use, recruited from clinic (10); pharmacy (6) and community settings (5) in London.

Results: Key advantages of pharmacy provision were ease and speed of access and convenience. Disadvantages included a less personal service, inadequate attention to information needs and to prevention of recurrence of ECP need, and unsupportive attitudes of pharmacy staff. Suggested service improvements included increasing privacy, providing more contraceptive advice, adopting a more empathetic approach and signposting follow-up services.

Conclusion: Pharmacies are important in the choice of settings from which ECPs can be obtained and many aspects of pharmacy provision are appreciated by young women. There is scope to further enhance pharmacists' role.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health
Early online date12 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This research was part funded by a grant from the Health Protection Research Units.

Open Access: No Open Access licence

Publisher Copyright: © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

Citation: Turnbull G, Scott RH, Mann S, et al, Accessing emergency contraception pills from pharmacies: the experience of young women in London, BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health 2021;47:27-31.



  • adolescents
  • emergency contraception
  • pharmacies
  • qualitative research
  • young people


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