The coronavirus pandemic has made a "difficult situation even worse" for women trying to access contraception, a group of MPs and peers has warned. Their inquiry claims years of cuts means patients "have to navigate a complex system just to receive basic healthcare".
It warns damage caused by the pandemic could see a rise in unplanned pregnancies and abortions. Sexual health doctors say the service is "overstretched and underfunded".
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Sexual and Reproductive Health says cuts to public health funding in England have had a wide-ranging impact, including:
- service closures
- reduced opening hours
- waiting lists
- staff cuts.
The impact of these cuts is often felt by the most marginalised groups.
The MPs' group is calling for a single commissioning body to improve accountability.
Women are said to be "bounced from service to service" - like Louise, 32, who struggled for years to find a contraception which didn't cause adverse effects. In some cases during lockdown, even essential care provision like emergency fittings and removals of devices have been affected. Lisa's coil fitting in March was cancelled because of the pandemic. She is now pregnant.
The inquiry says the underfunding of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) - intrauterine contraception and implants - means GPs are not incentivised to provide these services, which has contributed to a "postcode lottery" when it comes to services.
Source: BBC News, 11 September 2020