A controversial scheme to cut teenage pregnancies, which included giving a contraceptive injection to a girl in a McDonald's lavatory, has been highly successful and will be used as an example to others, it was disclosed yesterday.
The scheme in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, cut teenage conceptions by 22 per cent over the past six years. "Pro-life" charities complained last September when a sexual health worker, Angela Star, admitted at a conference to giving out morning-after pills outside school gates.
And McDonald's said it was "highly disappointed" that she had not informed it about the contraception she was carrying out on their premises.
But latest figures show that in Gateshead in 1998, 57.1 girls aged 15-17 per 1,000 conceived, which by 2004 had dropped to 44.5 per 1,000. The trust and local council run the Gateshead Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Partnership, which has now been invited to share its "best practice" with the rest of the country.
It has also had an input on national guidelines to reduce teenage pregnancies.
It has specialist workers targeting the vulnerable groups, and employs a dedicated sexual health worker for children in care.
Gateshead was one of the first areas in the country to offer home visits providing contraception for young mothers.
It is recognised that a second pregnancy can lead to greater social problems for teenage mothers. Barbara Convery, the teenage pregnancy co-ordinator at Gateshead Council, said: "We offer judgement-free, confidential advice and support through our young people's clinics and also through outreach workers."
Ms Star, who was previously named sexual health nurse of the year by the National Association of Nurses for Contraception and Sexual Health, told a conference in Belfast that she had consultations with girls as young as 13.
She told the conference that young women needed to be in a non-threatening situation so they could make fully informed choices.
According to the Government, teenage pregnancy rates are at their lowest for 20 years. But they are still among the highest in western Europe.
Figures published in February showed that the number of pregnancies among under-18s in England fell by 1.4 per cent between 2003 and 2004.Reuse content