GPs giving girls aged 10 prescriptions for the pill

GIRLS as young as 10 are being prescribed the contraceptive pill in Scotland, a study has found.

The study by researchers at the University of Aberdeen looked at figures collected from GP practices and family planning clinics.

The results also suggest that at least two 10-year-olds have been given the pill in the past year.

However, patient confidentiality means it is not possible to know why each girl was prescribed the contraceptive. Often the pill is given to combat acne or irregular periods.

The British Medical Association advises that girls of any age can be given the pill as long as they are thought to be mature enough by their doctor there is no lower age limit.

However, in Scotland, having sex with a child aged under 13 is classified as statutory rape.

If those on the pill are aged under 13, it is understood GPs should report it to the police or a social worker.

The research, conducted by Professor Peter Helms and Dr James McLay, will be published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood medical journal.

Dr McLay said that the research looked at 1,376 girls aged between 10 and 16 who were prescribed the pill by their doctor or a family planning clinics.

Of this group, 23 patients were found to be under 13 years of age.

In this group, nine got the pill from a family planning clinic while the other 14 went to the doctor for a prescription.

While the family planning clinics did not provide details about the patients, further records from 160 GP practices showed that the pill was given to three 11-year-olds, nine 12-year-olds and 35 girls of 13.

While this is a representative sample of patients in Scotland, it is thought the overall figure could be four to five times higher than that found in the study.

Dr McLay said: "The important thing to remember is that with the 10-year-olds found in the study it may be an error or a glitch, we cannot guarantee it.

"Also, my guess is that most of these women were put on the oral contraceptive for medical reasons by their GP, although I cannot say that for those who visit family planning clinics.

"However, there is always a concern at the back of your mind that some of these girls are falling through the net and may be subject to risks and problems associated with a sexual relationship.

"It is important for doctors and social services to look at contraceptive use."

Shadow Scottish Health Minister Shona Robison MSP said yesterday that the practice of prescribing the pill to girls as young as 10 for contraceptive reasons should be "ceased immediately".

She said: "I think there are huge ethical, moral and legal issues involved here, given that it is essentially statutory rape for anyone to be having sex with girls that age."

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