Religion, personal values and beliefs: providing emergency hormonal contraception

A pharmacy professional’s religion, personal values and beliefs can play an important part in their life and make a positive contribution to their work and the care they provide.

December 2019

However, in some cases, these personal values and beliefs could affect their willingness to provide certain services, such as routine or emergency contraception. 

Our guidance on religion, personal values and beliefs provides further detail to help pharmacy professionals meet the standards we require. It acknowledges the right of pharmacy professionals to practise in line with their religion, personal values or beliefs, as long as this is in accordance with equalities and human rights legislation, and as long as person-centred care is not compromised.  

In particular, pharmacy professionals must:

  • not discriminate against a person, based on their own or the person’s religion, values and beliefs
  • work in partnership with their employers and colleagues to consider any additional steps or alternative arrangements that they might need to make in order not to compromise patient care 
  • apply their professional judgement on the clinical appropriateness of medication for each person, and make sure that they take into account any time limits or other barriers to accessing medicines or other services, as well as any adverse impact on the person, when making decisions   

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians must meet our standards for pharmacy professionals at all times, including when their religion, personal values or beliefs might impact on their willingness to provide certain services. Standard 1 says that pharmacists must provide person-centred care and make the care of the person their first priority. 

Standard 1 also states that people receive safe and effective care when pharmacy professionals:

•    recognise and value diversity, and respect cultural differences – making sure that every person is treated fairly whatever their values and beliefs 
•    recognise their own values and beliefs but do not impose them on other people 
•    take responsibility for ensuring that person-centred care is not compromised because of personal values and beliefs.

Pharmacy professionals must be mindful of the difference between religion, personal values or beliefs and their professional clinical judgement at all times. 

Person-centred care is at the very heart of our standards, and we expect that this will be at the heart of every decision that pharmacy professionals make in their professional practice. This includes thinking in advance about the areas of their practice which may be affected and making the necessary arrangements, so they do not find themselves in the position where a person’s care could be compromised.

Clare Murphy, Director of External Affairs at BPAS said: “Emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) gives women a second chance of avoiding an unwanted pregnancy where regular methods have failed or not been available. We understand and respect pharmacists’ right to personal beliefs and values, and recognise that these may play an important role in the valuable work they do. We do however implore all to ensure that these beliefs do not obstruct a woman’s ability to act swiftly when faced with the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy, and make a decision about her own care in accordance with her own values.”

The guidance includes questions pharmacy professionals can ask themselves to help assess the individual situation, and the specific needs and circumstances of the person asking for care.

Find out more:

  • The GPhC standards for pharmacy professionals set out the key elements to consider in delivering patient centred care
  • The GPhC guidance on religion, personal values and beliefs describes the factors to consider and the questions you should ask yourself when faced with an ethical dilemma relating to your personal values and beliefs 
  • You can contact the RPS Professional Support Team for further advice on phone: 0207 572 2737 (option 1) or email 
  • The Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare of the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (FSRH) has published a new Emergency Contraception guideline

For pharmacists and RPS members:

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