The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has launched the free contraception scheme for women aged 17–25 who reside in Ireland. Funding of €9 million has been allocated to support the scheme in Budget 2022.
From today, free contraception, for women aged 17–25, will become available from GPs, primary care centres and pharmacists who sign up to provide services under the scheme. All consultations with a medical practitioner required to access prescription contraception, the fitting of Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARCs) and their removal, and the provision of prescription contraception by pharmacists will be free to 17–25-year-olds.
Minister Donnelly said:
"I am delighted to announce the commencement of the free contraception scheme for women aged 17–25. Women’s health is a top priority for myself and this government and was strongly supported in Budget 2022, with €31 million additional funding for new developments in women’s health, including the €9 million for this contraception scheme. Today represents another big milestone in the delivery of our commitments, under the Women’s Health Action Plan 2022 – 2023 to improve all areas of women healthcare. Access to free contraception was a key recommendation accompanying the Repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and is a key element of the Women’s Health Action Plan. The scheme, a vital Programme for Government commitment, puts women aged 17–25 at its centre in providing a full suite of options for them to choose which form of contraception works best for them. We are removing any financial barriers to the age cohort for whom such barriers are most likely to be an issue."
From today, and in the coming weeks, service providers including GPs, pharmacies, primary care centres, family planning centres and student health clinics will be signing contracts with the HSE to provide services under the scheme.
Information regarding the scheme will be available through the HSE’s sexual health and wellbeing website. This information will be regularly updated and will provide full details of how to access the scheme.
Free contraception scheme
The free contraception scheme will fund access to contraception for women aged 17–25 by providing:
- the cost of prescription contraception
- the cost of consultations with GPs and other relevant medical professionals to discuss contraceptive options with eligible patients and to provide prescriptions for these
- the cost of fitting and/or removal of various types of Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) plus any necessary checks, by medical professionals certified to fit/remove LARCs (for example, intrauterine devices (IUD), systems (IUS), coils and implants)
- the cost of providing the wide range of contraceptive options currently available to GMS (medical) card holders, which will also be available through this scheme, including contraceptive injections, implants, IUS and IUDs, the contraceptive patch and ring, and various forms of oral contraceptive pill, including emergency contraception
- the cost of training and certifying additional GPs and other medical professionals to fit and remove LARCs
Women will be eligible for free contraception under the scheme from their 17th birthday until the day before their 26th birthday. Women who have had coils, IUDs, IUSs or implants inserted under the scheme will remain eligible for checks and free removal of any devices inserted before their 26th birthday, to ensure their continuity of care.
Women’s Health Action Plan 2022 – 2023
The Women’s Health Action Plan brings a strategic approach to women’s healthcare. Led by input from women around Ireland, the Plan takes a targeted approach to addressing the health issues that affect women’s everyday lives. The Plan is underpinned by ring-fenced funding of €31 million, which has a full year cost of €48 million.
The Plan identifies gaps in services, improvements needed in women’s experiences of healthcare, vulnerable groups who need additional support as well as opportunities for new research and innovation. In addition to cost barriers, accessibility, stigma and lack of knowledge or information were also recognised as barriers to accessing contraception.
The Plan provides funding for new services, including free contraception for women aged 17-25, which represents a landmark moment for young women and sets out an ambitious programme of work, bringing about progress in key areas of women’s health in Ireland.
The free contraception scheme is a key element of the Women’s Health Action Plan addressing barriers to accessing contraception.