Can you get the morning after pill for free in England?

Emergency contraception can be prescribed free from GUM clinics, GPs, and certain pharmacies.

However, if you go to a pharmacy without a prescription, you may have to pay up to £35 to get your hands on the morning after pill.

With coronavirus restrictions meaning many GPs are offering limited appointments and sexual health clinics running on reduced hours, those requiring emergency contraception could end up having to front the cost or risk an unplanned pregnancy.

A recent tweet that was liked over 6,000 times (before the user turned her profile to private) stated: ‘If you think the war on women was over, you can no longer get the morning after pill for free from pharmacies as I have found today. It costs around £30, viagra is free. Women need this pill for a variety of reasons and each one is valid.’

The woman added that she’d tried three different pharmacies over the course of the day, but was told that it wasn’t available free at all.

This isn’t strictly true, but does highlight the discrepancy in availability of free emergency contraception across different regions – particularly compared to non-emergency sexual health services.

Sildenafil (the non-branded version of viagra) can be purchased with a private prescription, or you can get a prescription on the NHS, and pay the normal cost, which is around £9 in England.

Some trusts across the country will offer the morning after pill free for women, but this is dependent on where you live, and isn’t guaranteed.

With the morning after pill needing to be taken within around 72 hours after unprotected sex, it can be difficult to get to an appointment at a surgery or clinic.

If people don’t have the money to pay for the contraception at the pharmacist, this could be problematic. There have also been instances where people are blocked from accessing this altogether (although this is rare).

For those trying to get their hands on emergency contraception who are worried about the cost, first check online to see where it’s offered free in your area. You should be able to get an appointment for a clinic if your pharmacist don’t offer consultations.

Speaking about contraception during lockdown, pharmacist Deborah Evans told ‘My advice to anyone who is anxious after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure, is to give your pharmacy a call.

‘We can have a consultation over the phone to help you consider whether emergency hormonal contraception is suitable for you and will manage the conversation discretely and confidentially. If suitable, then you can pop into the pharmacy to collect your pack.’

It’s unfortunate that it’s something of a postcode lottery when it comes to how much you pay for these services.

A Superdrug spokesperson told ‘There may be a number of reasons why it may not be possible to access the morning after pill for free and it is largely dependent on NHS commissioning services.  At Superdrug we offer it for free wherever it’s available for us to do so.’

A Boots UK spokesperson added: ‘We remain committed to increasing accessibility of Emergency Hormonal Contraception (EHC) for women, and we firmly believe in the right of all women to access these services with ease and convenience.

‘It is currently available as a free NHS service in the majority of our pharmacies where there is a locally commissioned service available , however we continue to encourage the government to provide one nationally commissioned NHS service available from all pharmacies for all women in England, as there is in Wales and Scotland.

‘In all of our pharmacies across the UK, we offer an over-the-counter Emergency Hormonal Contraception (EHC) service starting from £15.99.’

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