Girls aged under 16 given contraceptive

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TEN girls under the age of 16 have been given a controversial sub-dermal contraceptive implant in Horsham.

The youngsters, whose age makes it illegal for them to have sex, received the implant from The Horsham Clinic last year, a spokesperson for Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust confirmed.

The contraceptive implant is a small flexible 40mm tube, roughly the size of a hair grip, that is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. It releases the hormone progestogen to prevent pregnancy for three years before it needs replacing.

Last year 1,700 girls aged 13 and 14 were fitted with implants nationally, revealed the NHS.

The number of 15 year-olds fitted with the contraceptive was 3,200 in 2011.

A stated benefit of using the implant, as opposed to the taking the pill, is its efficacy is not affected by antibiotics. It is also a more certain contraceptive for those who find it difficult to take the pill at the same time every day.

However, the under the skin contraceptive does not prevent STIs (sexually transmitted infections) being passed on.

Natika H Halil, director of information for the Family Planning Association said: “The provision of sexual health support to young people is a vital part of the government’s strategy to reduce teenage pregnancy rates in the UK – which are amongst the highest in Europe.”

Strict patient confidentiality rules mean that nurses and doctors are unable to tell parents if their daughter has or has not asked for the implant.

On the Sexual Health West Sussex website it says: “Under 16s can visit sexual health clinics and do not need their parent’s permission to get contraception or advice.”

This is under the ‘Fraser Guidelines’ which set out criteria in relation to contraception.

The criteria includes: “The young person cannot be persuaded to inform their parents, they are likely to begin, or continue having sexual intercourse with or without contraceptive.”

Legal age of consent in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales is 16.

A lifestyle and wellbeing survey of those aged 16-24 carried out in 2008 by West Sussex Primary Care Trust found that the median age for first sexual intercourse in the county was 15 years for males and 16 years for females.

It found that 59 per cent of males and 51 per cent of females, aged 17 when the survey was carried out, had sex before the age of 16.

It goes on to say that it found that those who were 14 or under at first intercourse were least likely to use contraception. A national survey suggested that this may be because they lack confidence due to their age to seek contraceptive advice or supplies.