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50 years on since the Pill became freely available to all women in the UK

Posted on the 18th July 2017

On the occasion of 50 years since the NHS Family Planning Act of 1967 made the Pill freely available to all women in the UK, Lancashire Care’s Contraception and Sexual Health Service (CaSH) is drawing attention to other forms of contraception that are also freely available to women in Lancashire.

The contraceptive Pill first became available in Britain in 1961. It was, however, available to only married women for whom pregnancy posed a risk. With the introduction of the NHS Family Planning Act at the end of June 1967 the Pill became widely available to all women.

Sue Capstick from Lancashire Care’s Contraception and Sexual Health Service said: “Prior to 1967, it was difficult to get the Pill. Only married women with medical conditions could get it and you also needed a GP who determined whether you could have it. Though the Pill was subsidised, it cost 2 shillings a week. The Family Planning Act, however, made the Pill available to all women and led to a uniform approach in how contraceptive services are provided by local health authorities.

“Fast forward to 2017, and we’ve come a long way in terms of types of contraception. As well as the Pill, there are now all sorts of other types of contraception methods that sexual health services like ours provide to women in Lancashire. This includes Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) such as the coil or implant which can last up to 10 years. There are hormonal methods, condoms and other barrier methods, and emergency contraception. We provide tailored advice on what works for individuals and our clinics, which can be found across Lancashire, are specifically geared to under 25s.”

“Emergency contraception is also available at all of our clinics, most GPs and many pharmacies. It can be used if a contraceptive method fails, for instance a condom splits, a pill is forgotten or taken late, or if no contraception is used. Emergency contraception should not be relied on as a form of contraception as other methods used regularly are more effective.”

Around 3.5 million women use some type of hormone-based contraception in the UK with the Pill being the most popular. The 1967 Family Planning Act made contraception readily available through the NHS by enabling local health authorities to provide advice to a much wider population.

Edwin Brooks MP introduced the Act into the House of Commons as a Private Members Bill, calling Parliament to respond to the issue of a rapidly growing population. He identified a social problem whereby low income groups were at risk of economic struggle through having more children than they could afford.

The Contraception and Sexual Health Team, in partnership with Brook, provides free and confidential sexual health services to young people under 25 across Lancashire and to people of all ages within Blackburn with Darwen. To book an appointment or find out about our ‘drop ins’ call 01772 401140; there are clinics in various locations and different session times across Lancashire. To find out more about services in your area, please visit www.lancashirecare.nhs.uk/cash-lancashire.

Condoms are available for free from any of our clinics for which appointment are not necessary. Young people can also access free condoms from any ‘Wrapped’ condom distribution site. Under 25s can also order free Chlamydia self-testing kits online by visiting www.best2know.co.uk.