Getting the pill online: our free service in Lambeth and Southwark that doesn’t need sugar-coating

By Hannah McCulloch

Did you know that Southwark and Lambeth residents can order the pill for free online through SH:24? 

The first free service of its kind in the UK, SH:24 has been providing combined oral contraception (COC) online to those living in these boroughs since March 2017.

As it is in beta stage of development, the contraceptive service is being examined as part of a series of studies carried out by King’s College London and King’s College Hospital, evaluating online and in-person contraception services. 

One particular research study is looking to find out a bit more about users’ experiences of ordering the combined pill online and how they found the process of inputting their medical information. 

Contribute to research, sustain the service

If you like using the contraceptive service, and would like to see it continue and grow, consider participating in some of the research happening alongside SH:24. Not only will you be sharing your contraceptive experiences with us, but you’ll also be contributing to the development of SH:24 and the future improvement of NHS services. 

Over the past nine months, the King’s research team have met with almost 150 SH:24 COC users to hear what they have to say and to take their measurements.

The team have heard about long waits in sexual health clinics and struggles to get a GP appointment, experiences that reflect research carried out by the FPA.

They’ve heard about how users have been pushed from service to service, confused by conflicting and inaccurate information online about where to go and when. 

It makes you ask yourself, if, on average, women spend 30 years trying to avoid pregnancy, why do services currently make it so hard to do so?

How was your experience of the service?

Alongside being interested in how users ended up at SH:24, what the team is really keen to hear about is how users found the ordering process. Was it easy? Did you need extra support? So far, it seems that not everyone who orders contraception knows that you can text back the SH:24 number if you have a sexual health related query. For example, if you’ve missed a pill and are not sure what to do, you can get in touch with the SH:24 team via text or through the webchat.

The research team also wants to learn a bit more about how users managed getting the information needed to order the pill online. Was it difficult to get your height and weight measurements? Did you know what your blood pressure was? If not, were you able to find out what it was? 

Risk factors for oral contraception

Blood pressure is of particular interest to the team because, amongst other measurements, it is an important piece of information for clinicians when prescribing the combined pill. Those with high blood pressure may be one of the groups for whom the combined pill isn’t suitable. This is because taking it can increase your risk of getting high blood pressure (hypertension). It is more likely that you’ll develop high blood pressure while on the pill if you are overweight, smoke, have a family history of hypertension, or if you had high blood pressure during pregnancy. 

Hypertension is one of the main risk factors for heart attack and stroke, so it’s important to keep an eye on your blood pressure and make sure that it remains at a safe level while you are taking the pill.

Want to get involved with research?

Participation in research is entirely optional, but all users of the contraception service are invited to participate in studies for which they may be eligible.

  • COC users eligible for this study will receive a text from SH:24 and a call from the King’s research team. 
  • Those who are ordering either the progesterone only pill (POP) or the combined oral contraceptive (COC) for the first time might be also be eligible to participate in the CiP-CO study, which involves two online surveys over four months.
  • Participants will receive a small cash incentive as thanks for their time.  

Order the Pill online, for free:

If you area resident in Lambeth or Southwark, visit our contraception webpages to find out more and place an order.

What else could be done to make it easier for you to get your contraception? How else can we make services better? Let us know in the comments or contact us.