St Helens has most underage girls on morning after pill in UK

An example of emergency contraception (Getty)
An example of emergency contraception (Getty)

A higher proportion of underage girls were given the morning after pill in St Helens then anywhere else in the UK, figures have revealed.

According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre, 225 girls aged under 16 sought emergency contraception in the borough in 2014/15, or 59 girls aged 13 to 15 for every 1,000 of the population.

This equates to seven times more than the national average of just nine per 1,000 population and more than three times higher than the North West average of 19.

Emergency contraception is most commonly a pill, known as the morning after pill, which can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, or if other contraception has failed, but it does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

The figures have been published by the HSCIC as part of a comprehensive look at sexual and reproductive health services in the UK and do not include figures for emergency contraception bought over the counter or prescribed by a GP.

St Helens Council says that support for young people, including education, meant that the number of under 18s falling pregnant was at an all time low.

However, while the local figure may be falling, the number remains one of the highest in the country.

St Helens Council’s director of Public Health, Liz Gaulton, said: “Keeping young people safe from harm - and supporting them to make informed, healthy choices - are priority themes within the multi-agency Sexual Health Strategy in St Helens.

“A number of measures are in place to support young people - from relationship and sex education in schools to one-to-one advice and support in young people friendly clinics.

“This has contributed to under 18 teenage conception rates in St Helens falling to an all-time low – and the proportion of under 16 conceptions that lead to abortions is the lowest in the North West.”

The council also says the figures are incomplete as they do not include prescriptions from GPs or contraception bought over the counter.

“The uptake of Emergency, Hormonal Contraception (EHC) in the borough remains a key focus of our work, however the data presented here is incomplete - as it covers only community sexual health clinics and not provision via GPs and pharmacies,” added Ms Gaulton.

“Our Teenage Action Zone (TAZ) and Community Sexual Health Service clinics are welcoming, confidential and accessible to young people because they are designed especially for them - providing the help and support they need.

“However young people may choose to access EHC through a variety of channels and not all areas have access to such flexible, thriving community services - so a direct comparison with other areas cannot be made.”