Contraceptive pills without prescription for young girls?

The study was carried out at five pharmacies in Southwark and Lambeth Photo: PA

Girls as young as 13 could be offered the contraceptive pill at pharmacies without needing a prescription, an NHS report has suggested.

It follows a pilot scheme which found the number of women needing emergency contraception "dropped significantly" in the year following the introduction of over-the-counter access to the pill.

The report, by NHS South East London, said the trial was successful in reaching its target group of black British, Caribbean and African women aged between 20 and 24 and those who had not previously used oral contraception.

The study was carried out at five pharmacies in the Southwark and Lambeth boroughs of south London, which have some of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe, and the highest in the capital.

The report said those who used it had valued the convenience of the service and the anonymity it offered.

It recommended it be expanded to other pharmacies around the country and also consider offering it to teenagers aged between 13 and 16.

In 2010 another scheme to allow girls as young as 13 to receive the pill on the Isle of Wight caused controversy.

It allowed teenagers who visited the chemist for the morning-after pill to also get a month's supply of the contraceptive pill.