Experts call for doctors to be allowed to sign off on abortions over Skype so women can take termination pills at home without having to visit GP
- Medics say patients should be able to get abortion medicine after Skype GP chat
- They say women should be able to take first drug needed for an abortion at home
- Experts say the move would improve womens’ access to medical abortion care
Women should be able to take abortion pills at home without having to see a doctor in person, experts say.
They want patients to be able to obtain the medication following an online chat via Skype or FaceTime.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) suggests removing barriers to how women access treatment by making more use of technology such as telemedicine, in which patients are cared for remotely.
Abortions are at an all-time high, while figures show women’s contraceptive needs are not being met and more than four million women in England are overdue for cervical smear tests [File photo]
Women are already allowed to take misoprostol, the second medicine needed for an early medical abortion, at home.
But an RCOG report, Better For Women, said the Department of Health should also consider allowing this for those taking the first drug, mifepristone.
The Royal College’s president, Professor Lesley Regan, said: ‘This would improve accessibility of medical abortion care for women, particularly those in rural areas or with childcaring commitments.’
It is also calling for women to be able to access one-stop-shop clinics to improve access to health services and tackle a shortfall in those attending smear tests.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) suggests removing barriers to how women access treatment by making more use of technology such as telemedicine, in which patients are cared for remotely [File photo]
It wants such integrated services to provide life-long reproductive and sexual healthcare for women, including menopause treatment, STI testing, contraception, abortions and fertility services.
At the moment, they must book different appointments with GPs, sexual health clinics or abortion clinics to use these services separately.
But experts say fragmented provision forces thousands to miss out on life-saving smear tests and struggling to get help for debilitating menopause symptoms.
A survey of more than 3,000 women commissioned by the RCOG found nearly four in ten were unable to access contraception services and 60 per cent did not have local abortion services.
Abortions are at an all-time high, while figures show women’s contraceptive needs are not being met and more than four million women in England are overdue for cervical smear tests.
More than a quarter of eligible women ignored invitations to have cervical smears last year, putting them at greater risk of cancer.
What the law says on terminations
Terminations are legal under the Abortion Act 1967 as long as certain conditions are met.
They can be carried out in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy – but two doctors must agree that the baby would pose a greater risk to the mother than an abortion. The termination must be carried out by a doctor.
Abortions after 24 weeks are allowed if the mother’s life is in danger, she is at risk of physical and mental injury or there is a severe abnormality in the foetus.
It is illegal to terminate a baby on the grounds of its sex. Typically women undergoing an abortion take two tablets, mifepristone and misoprostol, between 24 and 48 hours apart.
Until last year women had to take these pills in a clinic or hospital, supervised by a nurse, which can lead to cramps or bleeding on their way home, sometimes on public transport.
But the Department of Health announced a change last year which allowed women to take the second pill at home.
Dr Asha Kasliwal, president of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, said: ‘I see a patient in my contraception clinic who requires a difficult fitting of the coil. She is also due her cervical smear test.
‘This is the perfect opportunity to provide both services. However, my clinic is not commissioned to provide smears, so I am unable to.
‘Instead of having all her needs met in one go, this woman has to book two appointments for two different vaginal examinations. It is expensive, frustrating and unfair. Something has to change.’
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