Pandemic sees drop in sterilisations and vasectomies on the NHS

The pandemic led to a dramatic drop in the number of women being sterilised and men having vasectomies, new figures suggest.

Data from NHS Digital shows that the number of sterilisations performed in NHS hospitals in England has fallen from 15,189 in 2010/11 to 12,144 in 2019/20, a drop of 20%.

However, in 2020/21, there was a much larger fall of 37%, to 7,665 sterilisations.

Meanwhile, vasectomies have also been declining, with an accelerated drop during the pandemic year.

Before 2015/16, there was a long-term decline in the number of vasectomies performed, dropping 43% between 2010/11 (19,510) and 2014/15 (11,113).

The numbers then stabilised until 2019/20 at around 11,000 to 12,000 a year.

The pandemic has accelerated the drop (Lynne Cameron/PA)
The pandemic has accelerated the drop (Lynne Cameron/PA)

In 2020/21 during the pandemic, the number fell to 4,449, which is 63% less than in 2019/20.

Other data on Sexual and Reproductive Health Services (SRH), dedicated services provided by the NHS, showed there was a 45% fall in emergency contraceptive items (commonly called the morning-after pill) provided in 2020/21 compared to 2019/20.

There was also an 18% fall in prescriptions of the morning-after pill prescribed at other locations in the community (mainly GP surgeries).

SRH services saw a “notably larger” fall in 2020/21 than in previous years, with 44,420 emergency contraception items dispensed, which was 45% less than in 2019/20 (80,692), NHS Digital said.

The number of emergency contraception prescriptions dispensed in the community also fell to 90,068 in 2020, a fall of 18% compared to 2019 (110,378).

However, this continues a decade-long decline, 64% from 252,800 in 2010.

All this data excludes other places women may get contraception, including hospital out-patient clinics, and emergency contraception bought over the counter in pharmacies.