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Doctors in limbo over new guidelines

Doctors are unlikely to be issued with any new guidance on abortion from the Medical Council until next summer after legislation is passed, despite a recommendation from the inquest jury.

The Medical Council, which is responsible for the guidelines given to doctors covering patient care and abortion, said last night it will give "detailed consideration" to recommendations from the inquest into Savita Halappanavar.

The jury asked that guidelines from the Medical Council lay out exactly when a doctor can save the life of the mother to "remove doubt and fear from the doctor and also reassure the public".

However, in response, the council said its guidance reflects "the current legal position".

Guidelines would be reconsidered to "reflect any change in the legal position".

Health Minister James Reilly said it was "important to state that many changes have already been implemented including the putting in place of an early warning score system in maternity hospitals to monitor the well-being of a patient. After all, that has to be the priority – the safety of all our patients," he said.

Dr Reilly wanted to examine the report of the clinical review of Savita's care and would have "no issue about apologising to any patient's relative who felt that their relative had not been treated properly".

The jury recommended that the early warning score – a guide to staff that a patient could be deteriorating – be adopted in all hospitals.

However, the HSE has confirmed that while this was being piloted in a number of maternity units it would be some time before it is rolled out nationally.

Gerard O'Donnell, solicitor for Praveen Halappanavar, told the Irish Independent that his client would continue to decline an invitation to meet with the chairman of the clinical review team which has drawn up a draft report on the care of Savita.

Speaking after the inquest, Tony Canavan, chief operating officer for Galway and Roscommon University Hospitals Group, said there were lapses in standards in the care of Savita.

But he said "complex medical situations unfold, often very quickly, in real time".

The management would "take on board the coroner's recommendations to ensure that deficiencies will be rectified in the hospital .

He said: "We owe it to our patients and to our staff to ensure that they are in an environment that operates to the highest standards."

Irish Independent