Staying sexually healthy in Lanarkshire will be a lot easier thanks to three free “C” services at local pharmacies.
Emergency contraception – or “the morning after pill” - condoms and Chlamydia tests are the three Cs now available free of charge at chemists.
These new community pharmacy services will complement NHS Lanarkshire’s sexual and reproductive health clinics.
Dr Anne McLellan, lead clinician for sexual and reproductive health in NHS Lanarkshire, said: “We are delighted with the improved access for clients with the introduction of the ‘three free C scheme’.
“Clients with more complex needs can be signposted by the pharmacists into the Lanarkshire sexual health service.
“The medical staff, within NHS Lanarkshire sexual health service, have been training the pharmacists and look forward to having a good relationship with them.”
All pharmacies can now provide a free Chlamydia testing kit – which also detects gonorrhoea.
In addition, free condoms are available through the C-Card Scheme from 52 GP practices and health centres, as well as 37 Lanarkshire community pharmacists.
Most pharmacies will also be able to provide free emergency contraception - which previously cost more than £20 - and advice.
Dr McLellan added: “It is well recognised that effectiveness of emergency hormonal contraception is higher if taken within the first 24 hours.
“This is why easier access through the community pharmacists scheme is so valuable.”
Jacqueline Martin, manager of NHS Lanarkshire’s condom distribution schemes, says local communities will benefit from easier access to these new initiatives within the pharmacy services.
However, she emphasised that prevention remains the vital message.
Jacqueline said: “Condoms are the only effective method of preventing HIV and reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infections.”
The provision of free Chlamydia testing kits will have a major impact in improving sexual health in Lanarkshire.
One in 10 people under the age of 25 has Chlamydia but the infection can be easily treated with antibiotics.
Doctor Alison Currie, a sexual health consultant within NHS Lanarkshire, said: “Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection but most people who have it don’t have any symptoms.
"It is therefore important to be tested if you think you may have been at risk.”
George Lindsay, chief pharmacist, NHS Lanarkshire primary care said: “We are delighted to establish these services in NHS Lanarkshire as part of the developments in the national community pharmacy contract.
“Patients are already benefiting from increased choice and access to screening and treatments from the extensive community pharmacy network within NHS Lanarkshire which operates in convenient locations and for longer hours than most other providers.
“The inclusion of these services on the NHS has also generated excellent cooperation between community pharmacists and specialist sexual health clinicians and that augurs well for the future.”
For a free Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea Postal Testing kit, just ask the pharmacist, follow the instructions at home, and post off the kit – the postage is already paid.
To find your nearest C-Card centre, look out for the C-Card leaflet available widely around Lanarkshire or call the General Enquiry line on 0300 3030 243.
Details of the three C scheme and information on sexual health, clinics and services are available online at www.lanarkshiresexualhealth.org