More than a quarter of councils have decided to close community contraceptive services or are considering doing so, research has found.
Freedom of information requests made by the Advisory Group on Contraception revealed 14% of the 146 “top tier” councils – those with responsibility for education, adult and children’s social care and for public health – that responded confirmed they had either already closed or planned to end services.
“Cutting contraceptive services is a completely false economy”
A further 13% reported that closures were under consideration.
The AGC report – Private Lives, Public Health: the changing shape of contraceptive services in England post-2013 – outlined a series of what it called “worrying trends” caused by public health budgets being cut by £800m across this parliament.
These included reductions in the number of community clinics providing contraception choices for women, fewer GP practices contracted to provide access to “longer acting” methods and inconsistencies in access across the country
Responding to the report published today, AGC member and chief executive of the Family Planning Association Natika Halil said: “Making it harder for women to choose the right contraception for them will mean more unplanned pregnancies and more abortions.
“Councils need adequate funding to deliver the comprehensive contraceptive services women need and deserve,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said: “We regularly speak with women who have experienced difficulties accessing contraception, and this report provides clear evidence that these aren’t isolated cases. One-third of women are living in areas where contraceptive services are restricted.
“Services should be protected in a way that acknowledges the important role contraception plays in women’s lives and their health,” she said. “Not only are services being shut down, but women who do manage to access a clinic are they are then being denied the full range of options on the basis of cost – including some of the most effective methods.
She added: “Cutting contraceptive services is a completely false economy. We appreciate that local councils are in a very difficult position because cuts to their own budgets. Therefore we fully support the Advisory Group on Contraception’s call for the government to review commissioning arrangements for contraceptive services.”