A third of GPs to shun practices giving abortions

GPs believe abortion rate will rise once primary care terminations permitted, GP survey shows.

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

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 10 calling for it to be cut to 15 weeks or less.

The findings of the GP Attitudes survey, a poll of 480 UK GPs by GP newspaper, highlight 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.

Sixty-one per cent of GPs who responded to the 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' if they became available in primary care.

'I have already seen an inc-rease 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 to 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 EMAs as accessible as possible.

'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.

Three-quarters of respondents to GP's poll also said that the number of doctors' signatures required for a termination should not be cut.

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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