A number of family doctors have stopped providing some contraceptive methods because of funding cuts, according to new research. The Advisory Group on Contraception says women trying to prevent unwanted pregnancies have been left with limited choice.
GPs are no longer offering such methods as intrauterine devices and the intrauterine system as well as the contraceptive injection and the implant in a third of council areas. A quarter of councils said they were already shutting, or considering closing, some contraceptive services, which tend to be funded from the public health budgets of local authorities. That has led to fears that there will be an increase in the rates of unwanted pregnancies.
The research comes following a series of funding cuts for local authorities. Last year, the then Chancellor George Osborne said that public health budgets would be slashed by £200 million up until April this year.
While current guidelines say that a choice of all methods should be offered to women, the reality is that choices are now limited. According to the British Pregancy Advisory Service (BPAS), a third of women live in areas where their choices are now limited. The BPAS said its advisors regularly spoke with women who were having problems accessing the contraception that they wanted to use.
Katherine O’Brien from BPAS said that: “Not only are services being shut down, but women who do manage to access a clinic are then being denied the full range of options on the basis of cost – including some of the most effective methods.” She added that it was vital that women had access to the contraception which worked best for them and that their concerns over side effects were taken seriously.
The BPAS said that cutting contraception services will only lead to more money being spent in the long run as a result of unwanted pregnancies.