quarta-feira, 5 de dezembro de 2007

GPs could provide women 'tablet abortions'

Women could have abortions in doctors' surgeries under proposals being considered by the Department of Health, it has emerged.

Officials are evaluating the safety and effectiveness of GPs providing tablets to induce an abortion in the first nine weeks of pregnancy.

Two pilot schemes are being carried out within special rooms in hospitals and the results will be available in the New Year.

Currently the law says an abortion can only be performed in a hospital in an NHS trust, primary care trust or foundation trust or in an approved independent sector place, such as a private clinic.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson has the power to approve GP surgeries and family planning clinics as a "class of place" under the Abortion Act allowed to carry out terminations, but this has not yet been done.

The law was established when the only method of termination was surgery but now two drugs can be administered, 24 or 48 hours apart, to induce a miscarriage within the first nine weeks of pregnancy.

The powerful science and technology select committee carried out an investigation into abortion in October and said there were no safety concerns over allowing women to take the second dose of drugs at home, as happens in America.

Ministers have said they are committed to ensuring women have access to early abortion wherever possible and in general health care policy is to provide care nearer people's homes.

But the proposal will raise fears that abortion is becoming an extension of the contraception service and may not have the support of GPs.

Dr Fiona Cornish, a GP in Cambridge and vice-president of the Medical Women's Federation, told GP newspaper, Pulse, that even pro-choice doctors would not want to take on medical abortions because of time constraints.

"We're already doing minor surgery, a lot of hospital follow-ups, coils, family planning clinics," she said. "No doubt there would be no extra funding."

Dr Nigel Dickson, a GP in Southampton, said he was "sceptical" the Government would provide adequate resources and that GPs would need access to specialists out-of-hours in case anything went wrong.

A British Medical Association spokesman said: "The BMA supports safe and improved access to abortion services. However we would need to look at the government proposals in detail before commenting on whether GP surgeries could provide the level of care needed for abortion services.

"A number of issues would need to be looked at, for example, counselling facilities, privacy, aftercare and access to emergency services in the event of complications."

Dr Evan Harris, a member of the science and technology select committee, said: "There is no evidence to suggest that there are any safety or effectiveness problems with early medical abortion taking place in primary care settings if properly funded and when appropriate back-up provided."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We have not taken any decision on whether to set up abortion services in GP practices or any other non-traditional settings.

"The evaluation will be complete in the New Year and we will consider the results carefully before reaching a decision."

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