The morning-after pill will be available over the counter as from this Thursday, the Gibraltar Government confirmed yesterday.
The morning after pill is currently available on prescription at the Primary Care Centre.
“Patient choice is a vital part of good modern healthcare,” a Government spokesman said.
The announcement was made yesterday in answer to GBC questions and the morning-after pill will be available for purchase at a retail cost over the counter from pharmacies.
At the moment a GP or Nurse Practitioner can prescribe the morning-after pill during a consultation and after full discussion of a patient’s best options. However, a patient may prefer to seek the advice of a Pharmacist and may decide that they would rather purchase this medication.
“Our Pharmacists are fully trained to offer this service and patient choice and involvement in their own healthcare decisions is fully supported and very much welcomed,” said the Government spokesman.
“Safe care is paramount and as such there will be safeguards in place to ensure that patients receive full information before making the choice to purchase the morning-after pill in a Pharmacy.”
The pharmacist will then be required to go through questions concerning allergies, other medical conditions and medications.
According to the Government, the questions have not been designed to be intrusive, but to ensure that patient safety is maintained at all times.
Additionally, an information leaflet will be given out with every morning-after pill purchased to provide information such as how to take it and any side effects.
In accordance with the UK General Medical Council’s guidance, a doctor is not obliged to prescribe or recommend any medication or treatment to which they have a moral objection.
That doctor, however, must then make arrangements for the patient to see another doctor and never compromise the highest standards of care for a patient.
This applies to the morning after pill. In the Primary Care Centre, three doctors out of 23 are not willing to prescribe this particular medication. Patients, however, are advised of this if they specifically ask before booking an appointment and they can very easily see another GP or Nurse Practitioner on the day.
Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon welcomed the new initiative introduced by the Government.
“This is a positive move that I feel will help to empower our young women in determining their futures,” Mrs Hassan Nahon said.
“Although the use of such measures may be a sensitive issue locally, the fact is that single or married women, who may be at a time in their lives where they cannot raise a child for a number of reasons, will now have the choice of ensuring they do not become pregnant if other methods fail.”
“The GHA should be congratulated for this measure, however long overdue, which will put us on a par with most other European legislations and allow greater freedom for women and couples to plan their futures.”
The Equality Rights Group has also welcomed the move and said they will continue to press the Government to improve healthcare in the field of sexual health.