A Lincoln law firm has said the proposed closure of the city’s only walk-in-centre would be ‘harmful to women’ and potentially lead to unwanted pregnancies.
Bridge McFarland Solicitors has spoken out against the potential loss of the service, voicing concerns about the facility’s role in providing women with access to emergency contraception.
A Freedom of Information request submitted to Lincolnshire Community Health Services Trust by the firm revealed that emergency contraception was accessed 707 times through the clinic in the year May 1 2016 to April 30 2017.
Some 343 of these women were under 21 and 61 of them were children, according to the results.
Bridge McFarland calculated how many of those women accessed this service on the weekend, when there is reduced access to GPs– the results were that over 36.7% of emergency contraception was provided on weekends or bank holidays.
The company said in a statement: “This is a high percentage and without access to this service it would be a lot harder for women of all ages but, particularly young women, to access the emergency contraception they need.
“With the current strain on GP surgeries this clinic is the appropriate outlet for this time-sensitive service, and Bridge McFarland feel that the NHS trust will be doing those women and children a disservice if they remove such an important service.
“Emergency contraception saves the NHS millions of pounds every year and protects women from proceeding with unwanted pregnancies.
“Of course a patient can access emergency contraception through a local pharmacy, but it can cost up to £35, something that may be a barrier for vulnerable people, people with low incomes and younger women; these are groups that we should be working to protect and support.
“Studies show that at least 40% of teenage mothers leave school with no qualifications and that both teen mothers and their children have an increased chance of living in poverty and having poor health.
“The cost of an abortion to the NHS was estimated to be £680 in 2011. While we can only speculate on the number of abortions that might be required to meet the need caused by a gap in service, we only need to think of those few women who would choose to continue with an unwanted pregnancy to estimate the true cost to the state.
“The UK is currently the ‘teen pregnancy capital’ of Western Europe, and that will not improve if these vital services are made harder to access for the vulnerable women in our society.”
Lincolnshire West CCG responded to the findings of the study, stating that is is likely that of the 707 occasions when contraception was accessed, some may have used the service more than once.
The organisation added that a GP Out of Hours service is available through the night, weekends and holidays at Lincoln County Hospital.
Wendy Martin, executive nurse at NHS Lincolnshire West Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Emergency contraception is offered free of charge to young women by a range of services – including pharmacies, sexual health clinics and local GP practices.”
Lincolnshire West CCG is conducting a consultation into the proposals that would see the walk-in-centre closed for good.
Following an extension announced on Wednesday, people in Lincoln now have until August 18 to have their say.