Exclusive: First in-practice abortions 'by spring'

PCTs are pushing ahead with plans to offer terminations in surgeries.

PCTs are pushing ahead with plans to offer abortions in surgeries and polyclinics from as early as this spring, GP can reveal.

Under the 1967 Abortion Act, an abortion can only be performed in a hospital or approved private sector clinic.

However, Section 1(3a) of the act gives the health secretary powers to approve abortions in primary care.

Last year, a DoH pilot study found that women could safely receive early medical abortions (EMAs) in community settings, paving the way for PCTs to develop abortion services.

Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request, Hampshire PCT confirmed that it is currently applying for a licence to provide EMAs. If successful, the service is expected to start this spring and would be based in a GP practice in Basingstoke.

Hounslow PCT in London said it was exploring the idea of providing medical terminations at the Heart of Hounslow polyclinic.

Sandwell PCT in the West Midlands also plans to invite bids for 'a primary care-based medical termination service' later this year. 'The service will be within the family planning clinic based in a polyclinic,' a spokesman confirmed.

Kirklees PCT in west Yorkshire, Islington PCT in London, and Somerset PCT also expressed an interest in providing abortions in primary care.

Dr Trevor Stammers, chairman of the Christian Medical Fellowship and a GP in south London, warned that the move would lead to an increase in the number of abortions.

'It is ironic that this move comes when the damaging psychological effects of abortion are becoming increasingly clear.

'I will certainly be forced to resign from practice if the PCT compels any building in which I practice to carry out abortions. I will not be alone in doing this.'

But Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: 'It is about time this happened. EMAs are in great demand and are the method women want to use.

'It's about making access to abortions easier and more convenient, not increasing the number of abortions.'

A spokeswoman for the DoH said work was 'progressing in this area' and that the department would be 'consulting further with stakeholders and service users early this year'.

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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