Page last updated at 18:56 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Text plan for morning-after pill

Some girls as young as 11 will soon be able to request the morning after pill by text message in Oxfordshire.

From July, students at four secondary schools in Oxford and two in Banbury will be able to text their school nurse for advice on emergency contraception.

The service is being introduced jointly by Oxfordshire County Council and Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust.

A confidential inquiry held in July highlighted Oxford and Banbury as teen pregnancy "hotspots".

Health bosses said there were 350 conceptions in 2007, but that this was below the national average.

In a joint statement, Oxfordshire County Council and Oxfordshire PCT said: "This service would provide an extra level of support for those young people who think they have taken a risk, or have another health problem, and don't want to approach a doctor or a pharmacist but can text a nurse and ask what they can do."

'Relationship education'

Child protection staff will step in if any girl aged between 11 and 13 uses the service.

Hilary Pannack, chief executive of teenage pregnancy charity Straight Talking, welcomed the move.

She said: "I think it's an excellent idea, but there needs to be good quality sex and relationship education as well.

"If it means them not going through the trauma of abortion, then it's valuable."

Family and religious groups, however, expressed concern over the scheme.

Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said: "International research evidence shows that making the morning-after pill more readily available doesn't make the slightest difference to unintended pregnancy and abortion rates."

Kate Guthrie, vice-president of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, said: "To date in the UK, increasing availability of emergency contraception has not had an impact on reducing the numbers of abortions or unintended pregnancies."

"Emergency contraception is not as effective as regular contraception, so should not be seen as a substitute.

"Every woman deserves swift access to emergency contraception when her regular method has failed.

"It is important that any new provision of emergency contraception is integrated into existing sexual health services, to ensure that a woman's future contraceptive needs and possible need for STI screening are met."



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