Sunday 18 November 2018

Up to two-thirds of GPs unlikely to provide abortions

Up to two-thirds of GPs say they are not in a position at this time to provide medical abortions. Stock image
Up to two-thirds of GPs say they are not in a position at this time to provide medical abortions. Stock image

Eilish O’Regan

Up to two-thirds of GPs say they are not in a position at this time to provide medical abortions because of a range of issues including workload, resources or conscientious objection.

However, 43pc said they would refer a woman to a colleague who is participating.

One quarter said they would not provide abortion and would prefer not to refer a woman to another doctor.

One third of GPs say they will provide the service once it becomes law.

The findings have emerged in a consultation process by the Irish College of General Practitioners, which has 3,500 members.

The consultation showed that GPs strongly believe that the provision of a suitably-staffed 24-hour helpline is a vital element of the service, as it will be a mechanism to ensure that those who do not wish to provide the service will not be required to do so.

The online consultation process was carried out during August and September, and the responses reflected the demographic and geographic profile of the College membership. There was a 26pc participation rate in the online consultation process.

“The consultation process provided substantial feedback from members, which is assisting the College in designing its clinical guidelines for the termination of pregnancy services”, said Dr Tony Cox, Medical Director of the ICGP.

“The data indicates that the majority of GPs are either willing to provide the service or refer a patient to another doctor who will. The 24-hour helpline will help women seeking a termination of pregnancy to be referred to a GP or other provider in the community, who is able to provide the service to them.”

“Of those who do not wish to provide a service, resourcing and workload is a major concern,” Dr Cox added. “Our feedback shows that there is genuine worry that the promised rapid access to ultrasound scans and hospital care, will not be delivered.

“The findings also demonstrate that there is a cohort of GPs who will not opt to provide services due to concerns related to conscientious objection.”

“Both in the development of guidelines and in advocating for the necessary resources the College’s primary concern is patient safety and quality of care,” said Dr Cox .

The College will hold an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of its members on 2nd December to discuss the provision of termination-of-pregnancy services by GPs.

This EGM was called by the Board to discuss the concerns raised by some members.

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