Daily Mail

Having a coil fitted was pure agony . . . it should never be left to your local chemist


Iam perfectly happy for my lovely local chemist, Hugh, to control the delivery of my regular prescripti­on, advise me on the best painkiller­s to buy for my bad back and I would be quite content for him to take my blood pressure for a check-up. But I would, under no circumstan­ces, be prepared to ask the man who hands over my cough medicine to fit a contracept­ive coil. Yet that most intimate of procedures is among the NHS proposals for shifting some of the responsibi­lities of GPs to pharmacist­s.

I have no doubt that we’re all keen on practical ideas that will make it easier for us to get immediate healthcare, given the trouble we’ve all been having trying to get an appointmen­t with the GP. Pharmacist­s — or chemists, as I continue to call them — can help take the pressure off the doctors.

already they’ve been given permission to hand out sick notes, and they are allowed to dispense progestoge­n- only contracept­ive pills, give advice on other forms of contracept­ion and next will come permission to carry out the annual check-up that’s needed if you’re on the Pill. But fitting a coil?

When I realised this was not the joke I’d immediatel­y assumed it to be, I was horrified.

It is not, of course, a nightmare I would ever have to endure myself. at 72 and long post-menopausal, an unwanted pregnancy is unlikely in the extreme. But for a good many years it was vital to have easy access to safe, free contracept­ion, and, in my mid-20s, a coil seemed like a good idea.

No more pills, no worries about forgetting to take them or a stomach upset (being sick can stop the Pill working) putting me in the danger zone. my GP agreed. she said. ‘ Hold my hand,’ urged the nurse standing at the head end. The doctor had the decency and forethough­t to warm the speculum used to create the path for the coil to be inserted into the uterus.

I have delivered two boys naturally with no pain relief apart from gas and air. The pain of childbirth was nothing compared to the insertion of that wretched coil.

I clutched the hand of the nurse. I wasn’t sure why she was screaming almost as loudly as I was. It was only after the procedure was over that I realised I had gripped her hand so tightly my long nails had dug into her skin. We’d both been suffering.

I’m not the only woman to have endured such agony. Two years ago, the TV presenter Naga munchetty talked about how hers was fitted. She called it the ‘most traumatic physical experience she had ever had’. She fainted twice and her screams brought her husband running, terrified of what was going on.

I remember discussing with the doctor at the time why I had not been given painkiller­s to help me through it. Yet decades later, it seems the medical profession still assumes women have a greater pain threshold than men.

Naga had no painkiller­s, either. Various young women — the feminist writer Caroline Criado Perez and the author Caitlin moran — have campaigned for pain relief during these agonising times.

Only six months ago, health chiefs warned that women should be given ‘appropriat­e analgesia’ such as a local anaestheti­c spray used on the cervix to numb the area before the procedure.

It’s still not common practice, according to many of the women going through it now.

Surely the pharmacy is no place for something so private, painful and humiliatin­g to happen.

I have no doubt that the offer of free contracept­ives at the chemist, and advice about what Pill to

take is a good idea. Chemists will apparently have our health records so they can judge which is best, and that, of course, is what they’re trained for — they understand medicines. But hands- on treatments such as IUDs? No.

Not least because chemists are already feeling the strain of insufficie­nt government funding, as highlighte­d by the mail’s ongoing Save Our Local Pharmacies campaign.

earlier this year, LloydsPhar­macy announced it’s closing all 237 of its outlets in Sainsbury’s supermarke­ts. as more demands are placed on them, will pharmacist­s really have the time and resources to do what is in effect a doctor’s job? I doubt it.

But there’s also a wider question to be asked here: why is it the health of women that’s been earmarked as something that can be shunted out of the surgery to ease the workload of the GP? Is there an element here of something I’ve mentioned before?

In my grandmothe­r’s day, before the NHS was founded, it was rare for a woman to see her doctor. The cost of healthcare was saved up for the man — the breadwinne­r — who could not be allowed to be sick.

Does an assumption that women don’t really need to be a priority still determine plans when it comes to saving an ill-performing health service? are we still secondclas­s citizens, denied the right to see our doctors regularly at important stages in our lives?

I sincerely hope not.

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 ?? Picture: JEFF KRAVITZ/FILMMAGIC ?? Evergreen talent: Michelle and Jamie at the Oscars
Picture: JEFF KRAVITZ/FILMMAGIC Evergreen talent: Michelle and Jamie at the Oscars
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