A service that allows women and girls aged 16 and over to order their contraception online and get it delivered discreetly to their door is now fully operational across Northern Ireland following a successful pilot last year.
The service is funded by Health and Social Care and delivered by SH:24 – a free online sexual health service – and can be used to order the pill, the mini-pill and emergency contraception (‘the morning after pill’). The morning after pill is also available for free from many pharmacies across Northern Ireland.
Dr Rachel Coyle, Consultant at the Public Health Agency (PHA), said: “SH:24 makes it easier for women to manage their sexual health and provides a flexible way to access contraception. A woman can order contraception from home, from work or from wherever is convenient – the service fits into busy, modern lives. Feedback shows this is particularly welcome for women with caring responsibilities who find it difficult to get to clinics with fixed appointment times. Some women may also feel embarrassed or struggle to know where they can access contraception quickly and easily. This service enables users to visit www.sh24.org.uk, choose their contraception, and have it to delivered to their home free of charge.
“It is a simple as filling in an online form which is then assessed by the SH:24 clinical team, who review the order and approve if it is appropriate. The contraception is then dispensed by SH:24’s partner pharmacy and delivered to the person’s home. They do not need to be home to receive it. Along with the medication, there are written instructions on how to take it. Women can also order a free STI test at the same time.
“If there are any health reasons why a particular pill might not be a good choice for a you, you will receive a call from an SH:24 doctor or nurse who will talk to you and decide whether the pill is safe to prescribe or not. If not, they will advise of other, safer options or ask you to go to a clinic to discuss other forms of contraception.”
The new system has been co-designed by service designers, clinicians and women who currently use contraception clinics.
Dr Paula Baraister, Medical Director, SH:24 said: “We are delighted to be able to bring this service to Northern Ireland. Feedback from people who have used it has been consistently positive and the flexibility and choice offered means that they benefit from bespoke treatment, tailored to their individual needs. The round-the-clock availability of the service increases people’s access to safe sexual and reproductive healthcare, particularly for vulnerable groups in rural areas.”
Dr Coyle concluded: “The service is of direct benefit to communities right across Northern Ireland, particularly at a time when health services are under pressure.
“The service’s contribution to innovation, improvement and increased access to sexual and reproductive healthcare means that women and girls over 16 can take control of their sexual health.”
The service follows the launch of SH:24’s online sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing service last year, which allows users to simply order a free and discreet home STI test.
For more information or to order your free discreet contraception or STI test visit www.sh24.org.uk