Abortion laws broken at 14 NHS clinics
The Care Quality Commission has found that doctors at 14 NHS trusts had pre-signed documents giving permission for patients to have abortions without confirming that they met legal requirements for having the procedure beforehand.
The law currently requires that two doctors sign documents affirming that the requirements for an abortion have been met. Requirements, except for in the case of emergency, include a risk to the health — physical or mental — of a woman, risks to the baby or risks to a woman’s other children if the baby is born.
Following unannounced inspections, the Commission found evidence of pre-signing documents in hospitals around the country. Pre-signing means that in practice, only one of the two doctors assessing a patient for abortion needs to give consent, the other having already signed the relevant paperwork.
Secretary of Health Andrew Lansley ordered spot checks back in March after it was revealed that pre-signing was occurring at a private clinic in Birmingham, which is now under new management.
Mr Lansley said, at the time: “it is pretty much people engaging in a culture of both ignoring the law and trying to give themselves the right to say that although Parliament may have said this, we believe in abortion on demand.”
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), who perform abortions at 28 mostly NHS-funded clinics, criticised the Government for performing the inspections in the first place, claiming that many doctors signed paperwork legally without seeing their patient first, and that pre-signing paperwork would alleviate the physical and mental upset of a woman who wished to terminate her pregnancy.
Chief Executive of the charity, Anne Furedi, said: “Pre-signing is not a clinical issue that puts women at risk or compromises their care. It is a regulatory matter that could have been resolved at a far lower cost to the taxpayer…It is shocking that finite resources were squandered in this way.”