NHS Lothian has ruled that volunteers distributing condoms in the province would no longer be able to do so for under-16s despite the soaring rates of teenage pregnancies. The trust said that only authorized staff could hand over contraceptives to under-16s as a child protection measure.
"My concern is that child protection is used frequently as a reason for doing things," commented Dr Dean Marshall, deputy chairman of the BMA's Scottish GP committee. He added that the NHS seemed to be becoming risk averse. "The unfortunate consequences of this decision are that youngsters who have had the good sense to go and get some advice are being turned away."
John Arthur, manager of Edinburgh-based Crew 2000, which is one of the busiest of 65 free condom and sexual health centers in the Lothians said that they were forced to turn many volunteers away because of this rule, "We don't have enough full-time staff to run the center and we rely heavily on volunteers," he pointed out. "Young people have to pluck up a lot of courage to come in the first place and making a service like ours less accessible will have a major effect."
The Family Planning Association in Scotland has also expressed dismay over the decision.