APPG SRH press release: Parliamentary cross-party group calls for women to have permanent access to early medical abortion via telemedicine beyond COVID-19
Date: 19 Jul 2021
Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health (APPG SRH), a group of cross-party MPs and Peers, is calling for measures to enable telemedicine for Early Medical Abortion – introduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – to be made permanent. At a meeting of the APPG SRH today, the Group will be joined by representatives from across the medical and policy sectors to discuss how telemedicine improves access to abortion care.
- The sexual and reproductive healthcare community is now awaiting the outcomes of Government consultations in England, Wales and Scotland on telemedicine measures in Early Medical Abortion being made permanent.
- Measures to enable at-home abortion have had a hugely positive impact. A study of more than 50,000 abortions before and after the change in England and Wales, published by the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in February 2021, concluded that telemedical abortion provision is ‘effective, safe, acceptable, and improves access to care’.
- The calls of the APPG SRH support those from across the charity and medical sectors to see the continuation of telemedicine for Early Medical Abortion beyond the pandemic, including backing from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
Dame Diana Johnson DBE MP, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group, said:
“Telemedicine for Early Medical Abortion has prevented tens of thousands of women from having to travel needlessly to clinics during COVID-19 and enabled many healthcare professionals to provide care from the safety of their own homes.
“As we look to the future, the APPG SRH is calling for telemedicine for abortion care to be made permanent by the Government – to ensure access beyond the pandemic.
“With about one in three women in the UK needing to access abortion services in their lifetime, and over 200,000 people needing abortions every year in England and Wales, telemedicine will improve access for significant numbers of women.
“Abortion care must meet the needs of women. This service has enabled those living in particularly challenging and difficult circumstances to still access healthcare during the pandemic and that should continue to be available in the future.”
Dr Tracey Masters, abortion care lead at the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH):
“The evidence is compelling that the introduction of telemedicine has improved access to abortion care. It is a safe and effective procedure and has offered many women greater privacy than having to attend a clinic.
“Through telemedicine, my patients have been able to discuss their options and start treatment in a timely manner mostly following a simple remote consultation – minimising the risk to both abortion providers and clients during COVID-19.
“Beyond COVID-19, allowing home use of the first abortion pill, mifepristone, for Early Medical Abortion would avoid unnecessary visits to clinic where there is no need for a scan – as is the case for the majority of women in early pregnancy. Home use enhances women’s options and gives better access to a basic, evidence-based and effective treatment.
“We urge the Government to announce a positive decision on home use of mifepristone and telemedicine for Early Medical Abortion on a permanent basis, to increase the safety and the quality of care.”
For further information please contact Catrin Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07950435846.
Notes to editors
- In March 2020, the Government changed abortion regulations to allow telemedical Early Medical Abortion care. This meant that women across England, Wales and Scotland were able to access abortion care during the pandemic without leaving home, by having medication posted to them following a telephone consultation with a qualified nurse or midwife. Prior to the telemedicine service being approved, anyone seeking an abortion needed to attend an in-person appointment to receive an ultrasound scan and take the first course of abortion medication within the clinic.
- To read the study ‘Effectiveness, safety and acceptability of no-test medical abortion provided via telemedicine: a national cohort study’ authored by Aiken, A., Lohr, P., Lord, J., Ghosh, N., Starling, J.,published by BJOG visit here. The study found the following:
- Waiting times from when the woman has her consultation to treatment improved from 10.7 days to 6.5 days
- 80 per cent of women said telemedicine was their preferred option and they would choose it in the future
- The effectiveness of the treatment remained the same for abortions carried out through the traditional service and the telemedicine service and there were no cases of significant infection requiring hospital admission or major surgery
- The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has also found that for every day’s reduction in waiting time due to telemedicine, the NHS in England would save £1.6 million per year owing to reduced complications and fewer needing to opt for a surgical abortion. To read the NICE 2019 guidance on Abortion Care visit here
- Those who have used telemedicine for abortion care have said:
"As a woman we should have the right to make our own choices and it’s harder to talk face-to-face than over the [phone].”
“The support was amazing. I hope this carries on [as] it helps people like me with children. The 24 hour helpline was so helpful. From start to finish… it has been amazing.”
About the APPG SRH
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health in the UK (APPG SRH) is a group of MPs and Peers seeking to raise awareness in Parliament of the needs of women seeking abortion and the importance of improving the sexual health of people in the UK.
The APPG brings together Parliamentarians, experts and campaigners to examine issues within sexual and reproductive healthcare in the UK, and to explore options to improve healthcare through policy and legislative change. The Group is Co-Chaired by Dame Diana Johnson DBE MP and Baroness Barker.