How Long Have You Had To Wait For Basic Contraception On The NHS?

Another day, another study which reveals that women are being screwed over

How Long Have You Had To Wait For Basic Contraception On The NHS?

by Vicky Spratt |

Another day, another report about how women are being failed by this country’s institutions. A new study, conducted by the sexual health charity FPA, reveals that almost a fifth of women have had to wait more than two weeks for a contraception appointment.

Not only does this report find that women are struggling to access basic contraception, it also reports that more than a quarter of women (27%) feel that they didn’t have enough time to discuss their contraception with a medical professional when they did get an appointment.

**WATCH NOW: The Debrief Investigates: The Contraceptive Pill and Mental Health **

Amy, from Nottingham, told The Debrief that she waited months for contraception this year. ‘I asked to see a doctor in May but could only get an appointment with a nurse’ she explains, ‘she couldn’t actually do anything except recommend the coil to me’. It was June before Amy saw a doctor ‘he put me on the waiting list for a coil, insisting it would only be a month but, one month later, I noticed they hadn’t contacted me so I called the surgery. I was told by the receptionist that there was “an unusually high number of women wanting the coil” so I’d been pushed into the next month’s list’.

It was now July, two months after Amy’s first appointment. ‘I then found out that there is only one day a month where they actually fit the coils’ Amy says ‘this is because both a doctor and nurse must be present for the procedure’. Amy explains that during this period she was taking the hormonal contraceptive pill to ensure that she did not fall pregnant before having a coil fitted, ‘I was getting a coil because I have an anxiety disorder’ she says ‘I was coming off it because of how badly it was affecting my mental health’. In August Amy raised this with her doctor because she was troubled by her deteriorating mental health, ‘I called the surgery and had to wait over a week to get a call back from my doctor’ she says ‘when he called I told him my symptoms and he agreed that I should not be on the pill. He said that the pregnancy risk wasn’t all that bad so I would just have to take a pregnancy test on the day…he then also informed me that I would have to wait another month before I could get my coil fitted.’

When did Amy finally get her coil? ‘I got my coil fitted on the 28th of September’ she says ‘it took 10 minutes.’ The total waiting time Amy experienced was close to four months.

Similarly, Tara from London waited over 3 months for a coil last year. She says ‘it wasn’t easy to arrange an appointment. I had to leave my phone number so someone could call me back and arrange a telephone consultation. That was in November…they left a voicemail apologising for the delay on February 17th!’. And it’s not just the coil that’s presenting problems for the NHS, Chloe from Warwick told The Debrief she has been waiting for nearly 6 months for an implant and keeps being ‘passed from pillar to post about who can actually deliver it’.

So, why is this happening? It can be no coincidence that these findings emerge at the same time as the Advisory Group on Contraception released figures showing that half of councils across the country have cut their spending on contraception over the current financial year. It’s also worth noting that, according to figures from the NHS, the number of people using long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as the coil or the implant is rising while the number of women who take the pill is gently dropping. LARCs are slightly more complex to administer than the pill, for instance, so it would be unsurprising if cuts to sexual health services were affecting waiting times.

Laura Russell, FPA’s Policy Manager, told The Debrief ‘from our conversations with women, it was clear that they really value their contraceptive services and the healthcare professionals that provide them. Unfortunately, despite a growing body of evidence that action is needed, the government is not currently placing the same value on them.’

On the importance of women being able to access contraception, she added ‘every pound spent on contraception saves over £11 in costs to the NHS, and yet we have seen repeated cuts to the public health funding which provides contraception services. This public health funding was slashed by £200 million in 2015/16, by chancellor George Osborne, followed by a Spending Review that set out a 3.9% year-on-year budget cut across public health from April 2016 until April 2021, totaling at least £600 million’.

Laura also told The Debrief that the FPA will be calling on the government to take action ‘we hope that Philip Hammond will show he recognises that cuts to contraceptive services are a false economy, and act now to save the UK billions of pounds by reversing these cuts in his upcoming budget’, she said.

You might also be interested in:

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Is Your Pill Causing You Anxiety, Depression, And Panic Attacks?

Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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