Charity calls for morning-after pill to be available at pharmacies without 'embarrassing' consultation

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service has called for the morning-after pill to be available on pharmacy shelves. Credit: Daniel Reinhardt DPA/PA Images

The morning-after pill should be available to buy directly from pharmacy shelves, experts have said.

According to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), the emergency contraceptive pill should be made available without an "unnecessary and embarrassing" consultation.

Women in the UK can pay as much as £30 for the birth-control tablet - up to five times more than women in Europe pay.

This is partly due to a mandatory consultation with a UK pharmacist before the pill can be purchased, BPAS said.

BPAS chief executive Ann Furedi dismissed what it called a "sexist surcharge", and called on the Department of Health to launch a review into retail access of emergency contraception.

"It is utterly stupid that we have made a medication which gives women a second chance of avoiding an unwanted pregnancy so hard to obtain," Ms Furedi said.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service said making contraceptive pills available from pharmacies would eliminate 'unnecessary' GP consultations. Credit: PA Wire

"There is no financial justification for the high price of this pill, nor clinical reason for a consultation before it can be sold."

There are two types of emergency contraceptive pill - Levonelle, which has to be taken within three days of sex, and ellaOne, which has to be taken within five days.

The medication can be obtained without charge by visiting a GP or a sexual health clinic, but BPAS said this was not a practical option for many women.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Emergency contraception is available free of charge from general practice, sexual health clinics and from some community pharmacies.

"We are clear it is only for use in emergencies and we have no plans to change the system."