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MPs accuse Boots of being 'unable or unwilling' to keep promise on cheaper morning-after pill

MPs have written to Boots over the morning-after pill. Credit: PA

Boots has been accused of a "scandalous" failure to provide cheaper emergency contraception - despite promising to roll it out nationwide earlier this year.

Just 69 of the high street chain's nearly 2,500 shops now offer the less expensive version of EHC (Levonorgestrel), which costs £15.99.

It had promised to have the morning-after pill available in all stores by October, amid a backlash over its handling of calls to make the morning-after pill cheaper.

It comes after the chemist chain faced severe backlash in July for refusing to reduce the cost of the morning-after pill.

The company faced accusations of sexism and threats of a boycott after arguing it did not want to "incentivise" its use by reducing the price.

Boots faced a backlash in July. Credit: AP

It later apologised for its "poor choice of words".

But a letter from more than 130 MPs, led by Labour's shadow public health minister Sharon Hodgson, states they are "deeply concerned" that Boots is "unable or unwilling" to keep its pledge.

It is dismaying that Boots have not fulfilled their promise from earlier this year to provide cheaper, more affordable emergency contraception to women by October.

Whilst Boots say they have started the process of rolling out this product in the stores, the progress they have made so far can only be described as a drop in the ocean with a long way to go before it is accessible in each of their 2,500 stores across the country.

As we enter the festive period - where women struggle to access contraceptive services and their usual family planning methods - it is crucial that Boots get their act together and roll out this cheaper emergency contraception as promised earlier in the year.

– Sharon Hodgson, shadow public health minister

The letter also called on Boots to consider reducing the price of its own-brand morning-after pill, which currently costs around £26, if they are having trouble sourcing the brand name.

The call was backed by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. Its director of external affairs, Clare Murphy, said it was "scandalous" that Boots had not yet made the drug widely available.

Boots says it has had trouble with a manufacturer. Credit: PA

"There can be absolutely no excuse for their pathetically slow pace of progress, other than the fact that they simply do not want to provide women with an affordable product," she said.

"If Boots cannot 'source' a new version of emergency contraception to sell at a lower price, then they should do the right thing and cut the price of the version they currently have in stock.

"Regardless of 'supply chain delays', affordable emergency contraception is entirely within their gift to give right now - and every day they refuse to do so, more women are being ripped off, or risking an unplanned pregnancy because they cannot afford Boots' inflated price tag.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Boots said they "remain committed" to rolling out the new emergency contraception nationwide, but said their manufacturer had suffered a "batch failure due to quality issues".

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 stores, however we would like to see one nationally commissioned NHS service available for all women in England, as there is in Wales and Scotland.

We are inviting our MPs to work with us to make EHC available free from pharmacies to all women in England and end the current postcode lottery on availability either due to location or age.

– Boots spokeswoman