Health secretary defends Isle of Wight pill trial

Image caption,
In 2008, 96 girls aged under 18 became pregnant on the island

The Secretary of State for Health has defended a scheme on the Isle of Wight to allow girls as young as 13 over the counter access to contraceptive pills.

The island's MP Andrew Turner told the House of Commons that many of his constituents were "horrified" by it.

Teenagers who approach a chemist for the morning-after pill will also be able to get a month's supply of the contraceptive pill.

The scheme allows them to do this without informing their GP or parents.

Ten of the Isle of Wight's 30 pharmacies will be able to provide a month's supply of the pill to a teenager without the need for a prescription.

After that month is up, girls must make an appointment with their GP or sexual health nurse in order to get any additional supplies.

At health questions, Mr Turner said: "On the Isle of Wight the local NHS has decided that contraceptive pills may be given to girls as young as 13.

"Their parents and even their GPs aren't involved.

"Nowhere else, I am told, shares this approach. Many of my constituents are horrified."

Local decisions

He asked health secretary Andrew Lansley for his views on the situation, who responded by saying the government supported young people making their own healthcare decisions.

He said: "These were decisions made locally and indeed we do support local decision-making.

"We are going to make sure that issues of that kind are taken not only in the health service but alongside local authorities as part of their public health function.

"It is important that one is clear that a young person is competent to make those decisions.

"Subject to that, however, we always are clear that patients have a right themselves to access healthcare on their own cognisance if they are competent to do so."

Isle of Wight Primary Care Trust said the scheme would reduce unwanted pregnancies, but church and campaign groups have called the move "irresponsible".

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