Experts call for morning-after pill to be made available in schools

Emergency contraception morning after pill generic quality image of birth control.
Contraception: Key Government targets on teenage pregnancies missed.anqa

Teenage pregnancy rates could be reduced if the morning-after pill was available in schools, according to health professionals.

School nurses could dispense condoms and emergency contraception, the Scottish Sexual Health Lead Clinicians Group has suggested.

Holyrood's Health Committee is holding an inquiry into teenage pregnancy and what action can be taken to reduce it.

In a written submission to the inquiry, the clinicians group said: "A relatively small investment in more school nurses and admin would bring a very generous return.

"The potential for the school nursing service to make an impact is restricted by lack of finance for posts and also timidity on the part of government and local authorities - why is emergency contraception not available in schools?

"Why are condoms and contraception not accessible? Vaccination against a sexually transmitted infection (HPV) is given in schools, why can't pregnancy and other STIs be prevented?"

It continued: "The Scottish Government is prepared to make a stand on controversial subjects like gay marriage, why does it run scared of its critics on the subject of making emergency contraception available in schools?

"The Scottish Government should give consideration to the availability of certain interventions in schools, particularly in rural areas and areas with higher teenage pregnancies, including the availability of emergency hormonal contraception in schools."

Figures published in June showed a key Government target for reducing pregnancies among under-16s was missed.

Ministers had hoped to cut the pregnancy rate in this age group to 6.8 pregnancies per 1000 girls by 2010. But the pregnancy rate for that year was 7.1 per 1000 - the same as it had been in 2009.

NHS Fife was shown to have the highest rate among under-16s and under-18s while NHS Ayrshire and Arran had the highest rate among the under-20s.

The Government's policy does not support providing emergency contraception in schools. Schools nurses are told to direct pupils to reproductive health or sexual health clinics.