Exclusive: GPs refuse to work in surgeries offering abortions

A third of GPs would refuse to work in a surgery or polyclinic that offers abortions, GP newspaper can reveal exclusively.

Photograph: SPL
Photograph: SPL

More than half believe offering the service in primary care will increase the overall abortion rate.

Nearly half of GPs also wish to see the current 24-week limit for abortion lowered, with one in ten calling for it to be cut to 15 weeks or less.

The findings of a poll of 480 UK GPs highlights unease in general practice over its growing role in abortion care and may jeopardise DoH plans to offer early medical abortions (EMAs) in primary care.

Last month, GP uncovered PCT proposals to offer EMAs in surgeries and polyclinics from this spring.

61% of GPs who responded to this newspaper’s GP Attitudes survey did not believe that practices should be offering EMAs at all.

The BMA has previously voted against relaxing the rules on where abortions can be carried out.

Dr Sarah Jarvis, RCGP spokeswoman for women’s health, warned that abortions would be ‘trivialised’ by availability in primary care.

‘I have already seen an increase in the number of women coming forward for abortions. Many are now using it as a method of contraception. I certainly would not want to offer my patients medical abortions.’

Dr Trevor Stammers, chairman of the Christian Medical Fellowship and a GP in south London, said: ‘Medical abortions are not a harmless procedure. Uterine rupture and bleeding, though rare, will occur and GPs should rightly be reluctant to take on the risk.

‘I will play no part in brutalising women in such a way and will do all I can to try and help women to see that abortion may not be the best way out in the long run.’

But Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, stressed the importance of making medical abortions as accessible as possible by offering them in primary care.

‘GPs are bound to be anxious about introducing a new service of which they have little experience. It is a fear of the unknown.

‘But primary care settings are a very good place to provide abortions provided they have the facilities in place.’

GPs’ call for the time limit for abortion to be lowered is not reflected in broader population polls, added Ms Furedi.

Of the survey respondents, three-quarters said that the number of doctors’ signatures required for an abortion should not be cut from two to one.


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