Free contraception scheme to include women aged 26 from 1 January 2023

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has announced the expansion of the free contraception scheme to include women aged 26, from 1 January 2023.

The free contraception scheme for women aged 17 to 25 was launched on 14 September 2022. The scheme is currently open to women aged 17 to 25 who are ordinarily resident in Ireland. Eligible women are able to visit GPs and other medical facilities such as family planning clinics for consultations regarding the best contraceptive options from them.

Since 14 September 2022 over 2,200 GPs, primary care centres, family planning centres and student health clinics have signed contracts with the HSE to provide services under the scheme, with additional providers pending. Similarly, over 1,850 pharmacies are also participating in the scheme.

From 1 January 2023 the scheme will open to 26-year-olds and will be further expanded to include 27 to 30-year-olds from 1 September 2023. Funding is provided, through Budget 2023, to expand the scheme to 16-year-olds also, subject to consultation across Government, legal advice and legislative amendment. Total funding of approximately €32 million has been allocated in Budget 2023 to support the scheme.

Minister Donnelly said: “I am delighted to announce the expansion of the free contraception scheme for 26-year-olds in the New Year. Women’s health continues to be a top priority for myself and this government.

Today represents another milestone in the delivery of our commitments to support women’s health, to expand access to contraception and to fulfil the recommendations made by the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. From 1 January this expansion will also provide added supports to women and to their partners in the context of the ongoing cost of living crisis.”

Prescriptions are dispensed at a local pharmacy of choice. If Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs) are chosen (for example: coils and implants), patients return to a service provider participating in the scheme to have the device fitted, and subsequently removed. All of these costs are fully covered by the State and are free of charge to the patient.

Information regarding the scheme is available through the HSE’s Sexual Health and Wellbeing website. This information is regularly updated and provides full details of how to access the scheme.

For eligible women, the free contraception scheme provides for:

  • 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

From 1 January 2023, women aged from their 17th birthday until the day before their 27th birthday will be eligible for free contraception under the scheme. Women who have had coils, IUDs, IUSs or implants inserted under the scheme will remain eligible for the subsequent checks and free removal of any devices that were inserted before their 27th birthday, in order to ensure continuity of care.

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