Nurses key to contraception affordability and access

Nurse-led insertions of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) could increase affordability and access to contraception for Australian women, new research from Family Planning NSW shows.

Published in Collegian Journal, Increasing the accessibility of long-acting reversible contraceptives through nurse-led insertions: A cost-benefit analysis outlines how using nurses to help women access LARCs could save millions of dollars while also improving contraceptive care and access for women.

LARCs are highly effective, long acting and reversible contraception and include devices such as the intrauterine device and progestogen implants.

FPNSW Senior Research Officer Dr Jessica Botfield said the research clearly showed there were significant savings associated with use of LARCs, including when trained nurses insert these devices. Giving nurses access to a specific Medical Benefits Schedule (MBS) rebate for the service would help make LARCs more accessible.

Dr Botfield said currently, with no MBS rebate available to registered nurses, nurses do not have a way to be reimbursed for LARC insertions. This can be a barrier to service provision in many communities and across primary care, and may be a factor in Australia lagging behind in LARC uptake compared to other similar countries.

"Nurse-led LARC insertion is a cost-effective way to increase access to LARCs across the primary health setting," Dr Botfield said.

"The creation of an MBS item number for nurses appropriately trained in LARC insertion would make contraception more affordable and accessible for women and also offer cost savings for the Australian Government."

The Family Planning NSW research, commissioned from the Centre for International Economics, found that if just 20 per cent of women who switch to a LARC from the pill see a nurse rather than a GP for the insertion, there would be a $2.7million saving to government over five years.

"Many women - especially those in rural areas - may have difficulty accessing LARCs, with one possible reason being due to low rates of LARC insertion training among clinicians.

"Nurses and doctors trained in LARC insertion have similar patient safety outcomes.

"Improving availability and accessibility of all contraceptive options, including LARCs, is critical to ensure women have access to their preferred contraception".

The study assumed an MBS fee for registered nurses worth 48 per cent of the current general practitioner fee for LARC insertion.

"LARCs are highly effective in preventing pregnancy but uptake across Australia remains relatively low," Dr Botfield said.

"Appropriate funding models and training nurses to insert and remove these devices would improve affordability, access and contraceptive choices for women."

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Media enquiries: Family Planning NSW E: media@fpnsw.org.au M: 0402 880 653

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