Anderson, Claire and Bissell, Paul (2004) Using semi covert research to evaluate an emergency hormonal contraception service. Pharmacy World & Science, 26 (2). pp. 102-106. ISSN 0928-1231

Objective: The aim of our study was to evaluate whether the patient group direction protocol for supply of emergency hormonal contraception was being adhered to, that pharmacists were undertaking their professional duties appropriately and to evaluate how women researchers felt that the service was being delivered.

Method: Semi covert research was used, two women researchers posed as clients seeking emergency contraception in a sample of participating community pharmacies. They used two rehearsed scenarios about unsafe sexual intercourse and missed doses of the oral contraceptive pill. All transactions were tape recorded and the recordings were used to produce the findings. The two women researchers posing as clients were also asked to record their feelings and experiences concerning the service on leaving the pharmacy.

Main outcome measure: Adherence to the patient group direction protocol and women's perceptions of service provision.

Results: In both scenarios the protocol was largely adhered to and emergency contraception was supplied appropriately. The length of each consultation for both scenarios was between 10–15 min. The women reported that the pharmacists had been courteous, polite and non judgemental. The consultations were carried out in a private area or in the dispensary. The women had no concerns about confidentiality.

Conclusion: Whilst there are clear limitations of this study in terms of the size of the sample, our results do highlight the fact that the PGD protocol was being utilised appropriately in most cases. In addition, neither woman reported any instances of judgmental or negative attitudes and commented favourably on the scope for discussion about emergency hormonal contraception and other important issues with the pharmacist.

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