Millions of women in England will be able to get free contraceptive pills without having to see a GP under new NHS plans.

Starting from December, the change will allow women to get a first prescription of the pill by visiting their local pharmacy.

The change hopes to help more women have a greater choice over where to get the pill and will also free up appointments in GP surgeries.

Women who have opted for the combined oestrogen and progestogen pill will have a check-up with a pharmacist to record their blood pressure and weight.

But no checks will be needed for the mini-pill (progestogen-only), NHS England said.

Women in England to be offered free contraceptive pills

Pharmacies wanting to offer the service will need to sign up meaning it will not be available immediately everywhere in England.

Cotswold Journal: The new service is set to help millions of women.The new service is set to help millions of women. (Image: Getty)

As more pharmacies join the scheme, the nhs.uk web page will be updated so women can check which locations offer the service.

The NHS has also shared that women with high blood pressure which puts them at higher risk of blood clots on the combined pill may be referred to their GP for further checks.

Funding has also been put in place so more pharmacies can offer repeat prescriptions of all types of pills.

The ongoing checks on blood pressure and weight that women need when they are on the pill will also be available in pharmacies.

NHS England shared that almost half a million women will be able to access the pill next year without needing to contact their GP first, with the figure rising after that.

Prescription figures for 2022/23 suggest there were almost 3 million prescriptions for the combined pill and more than 4 million for the mini pill.

Discussing the new service, NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, said: “This is really good news for women – we all lead increasingly busy lives, and thanks to this action, rather than making a GP appointment, they can simply pop into their local pharmacy when they need or want to access contraception.

“We will also be expanding services so that more health checks are available for patients on the high street, which is not only better and easier for patients but also frees up NHS time for more GP appointments for those who need them most.”

Cotswold Journal: The NHS has shared new plans.The NHS has shared new plans. (Image: Getty)

Pharmacy's to offer more blood pressure checks to prevent heart attacks in England

As well as plans to make the contraceptive pill-free, there are also wider plans that pharmacists will be offering more blood pressure checks to at-risk patients, with a commitment to deliver 2.5 million a year by spring 2025.

NHS England estimates this could prevent more than 1,350 heart attacks and strokes in the first year.

Victoria Atkins, health and social care secretary, said: “It is a pleasure to start my time as Secretary of State with such a positive example of the Government, NHS and pharmacy sector working together to reach an agreement to improve services and save lives.

“For the public, these changes will mean more options for women when choosing their preferred contraception, reduce the risks of people suffering heart attacks and strokes and make it easier to access medicines for common conditions.

“And for healthcare professionals, this will free up GP appointments and make better use of the skills and expertise within community pharmacies.”