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Publication, Part of

Sexual and Reproductive Health Services, England (Contraception) 2020/21

National statistics, Official statistics

National Statistics

Re-issue of publication

This publication was re-issued after missing data was identified at some providers.

Following collection of the missing data, the total number of contacts increased by 33,579 (+2.2%). All figures have been updated to reflect this change.

28 October 2021 12:00 PM

Part 3: Emergency contraception


Figures in this part do not represent the full volume of emergency contraceptives provided in England.

Most of the analysis relates to emergency contraception provided at SRH services only. Counts from community prescribing data (items dispensed primarily by pharmacists and GPs - see part 5 for full inclusions) are also shown in the first section - this data is sourced from the Prescription Cost Analysis (PCA) system, supplied by NHS Prescription Services.

Since 2001, the reclassification of emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) meant that it could also be purchased over the counter at a pharmacy without a prescription (by females aged 16 and over). In addition, nurses and pharmacists can supply EHC to females of all ages under a Patient Group Direction (PGD). PGDs are documents which make it legal for medicines to be provided to groups of patients without individual prescriptions having to be written for each patient. Data on supply by PGD are not collected centrally.

Emergency contraception provision

Emergency contraception provided by SRH services, or dispensed in the community, by year

Community prescribing data is reported by calendar year, so is presented separately from SRH services data.

Over the last ten years, there has been a fall in the number of emergency contraception items provided by both SRH services and at other locations in the community.

At SRH services there was a notably larger fall in 2020/21 than in previous years, with 45,554 emergency contraception items provided, which was 44% less than in 2019/20 (80,692).

The number of emergency contraception prescriptions dispensed in the community fell to 90,068 in 2020, a fall of 18% compared to 2019 (110,378). In the last ten years, this has fallen by 64%, from 252,800 in 2010.

Likelihood of being provided emergency contraception by SRH services, by age

3 per 1,000 of the female population were provided emergency contraception by an SRH service in 2020/21.

The likelihood of a female using an SRH service to obtain emergency contraception varies with age.

Those aged 18 to 19 were the most likely, with 9 per 1,000 population having done so at least once during the year.

There were 1,175 females aged 13 to 15 provided with emergency contraception by an SRH service at least once during the year, representing 1 per 1,000 population.


For more information: Data tables 1, 9a, 9b, 9c, and 13

Emergency contraception provided to under 16s (SRH services only)

Emergency contraception items provided to under 16s, by year

The number of emergency contraception items provided to under 16s by SRH services over the last ten years has fallen both in real terms and as a percentage of those provided to females of all ages.

1,357 items were provided to under 16s by SRH services in 2020/21, representing 3% of total emergency contraception. This compares to 4,284 items in 2019/20, and 14,490 items in 2010/11 (which represented 10% of the total). 


For more information: Data tables 9a, 11 and 18a/b

Last edited: 28 October 2021 10:46 am