National lockdowns in England due to COVID-19 resulted in rapid shifts in healthcare provision, including in primary care where most contraceptive prescriptions are issued. This study aimed to investigate contraception prescribing trends in primary care during the pandemic and the impact of socioeconomic deprivation.
Prescribing data were accessed from the English Prescribing Dataset for the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic (1 March 2020–28 February 2021) and the year prior (1 March 2019–29 February 2020). Data were analysed by geographical region (London, Midlands and East of England, North of England, South of England) and contraceptive type (progestogen-only pill (POP), combined oral contraception (COC), emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) and contraceptive injections). Differences in prescribing rates were calculated using Poisson regression. Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated for the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) scores for each Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in the North East and North Cumbria (NENC).
Contraception prescribing rates decreased overall during the COVID-19 pandemic in England (Poisson regression coefficient (β)=–0.035), with a statistically significant (p<0.01) decrease in all four regions. Prescriptions decreased for COC (β=–0.978), contraceptive injections (β=–0.161) and EHC (β=–0.2005), while POP (β=0.050) prescribing rates increased. There was a weak positive correlation between IMD and prescribing rates in NENC (p>0.05).
Contraception provision was impacted by COVID-19 with an overall decrease in prescribing rates. The deprivation results suggest that this may not be a significant contributing factor to this decrease. Further research is recommended to better understand these changes, and to ensure that services respond appropriately to population needs.