Emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) – often referred to as the ‘morning after pill’ – is now free to all from pharmacies across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Previously it was only free of charge for those aged 25 and under but Cornwall Council’s public health team has now ensured it is accessible to all from October 1, 2023.
Regardless of age, women and those described as female at birth need only visit their local pharmacy to access EHC.
They can be assured they will be treated non-judgementally, and with dignity and respect when they speak to the pharmacist.
It comes amid warnings from health professionals about a decrease in people using condoms and other forms of contraception.
EHC is also available free of charge to women of any age at clinics run by council partner Brook, a sexual health charity, or via their website.
Whilst EHC should never be someone’s first line of contraception, it does play a vital role in reducing unintended pregnancy when other types of contraception fail.
Cllr Dr Andy Virr, cabinet member for adults and public health at Cornwall Council, said: “It is great news that we’ve been able to scrap the age cap for free emergency hormonal contraception here in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, so it is available to all.
“There can often be a stigma attached to EHC but I would like to make it very clear that asking for it at your local pharmacy is nothing to be ashamed about.
“If you had unprotected sex, or other forms of contraception have failed, then drop in and talk to the pharmacist. Everything is completely confidential, no matter how old you are, and you will be treated with the dignity and respect you deserve.”
Rachel Wigglesworth, director of Public Health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “We felt this was really important as part of our overarching women’s health strategy and drive for equality in Cornwall because, quite simply, why should women over 25 be discriminated against?
“These are tough economic times and EHC prescriptions for over-25s can be costly so this will help support women to have a choice while not worrying about the financial impact.”
She added: “No matter how old you are, we would also urge everyone to practice safe sex and use condoms. Cases of sexually transmitted infections (STI) are on the increase in Cornwall and the UK and condoms are the only method of contraception that can protect you from them.
Gemma Niebieszczanski, head of clinical operations at sexual health charity Brook, said: "We're delighted that emergency hormonal contraception prescriptions will now be free in pharmacies for everyone in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Removing cost as a barrier is a fantastic step towards ensuring emergency contraception is even more accessible.
“Brook clinics already provide free EHC to people of all ages in Cornwall, as well as having the option for people 16 and over to order it free online. Pharmacies are a really positive addition to the existing access points for free EHC in local communities, making healthcare more readily available to those who need it.”