will soon be available in pharmacies without a prescription under plans unveiled by the government.
Health minister Lord Darzi revealed that pilot trials will be run next year to see if the move could improve access to contraception and reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.
Official figures show that the percentage of conceptions leading to abortions has risen since 1998, indicating that many women are getting pregnant by mistake.
Lord Darzi said: "On the provision of and access to contraception through pharmacists, I feel strongly that that is probably the easiest route for the patient.
"I have no doubt that improvements in sexual health and the provision of choice in acquiring oral contraceptives will significantly reduce unintended pregnancies."
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) is backing the trials, claiming that pharmacists have the necessary skills to supply contraception.
"As such, they have clinical skills and expertise that will help them to provide information and advice to women to ensure the appropriate use of oral contraception," said David Pruce, director of practice and quality improvement at the RPS.