FSRH & RCOG statement: FSRH and RCOG welcome the Welsh Government’s decision to permanently allow telemedicine for early abortion care
Date: 25 Feb 2022
Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements
The Welsh Government has announced that telemedicine for early medical abortion care will be made permanent in Wales. The measure allows the use of both abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, at home. The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) welcome this decision, which follows previous calls by FSRH and charities in the sector to make telemedicine for early medical abortion permanent. The decision comes on the same day as the UK Government announced its intention to withdraw the same service in England.
New guidance developed by FSRH, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), and the British Society of Abortion Care Providers (BSACP) in Wales will be launched soon.
Dr Jane Dickson, member of the Wales Committee and former Vice President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:
“We strongly welcome the Welsh Government’s decision to permanently allow telemedicine and home use of both abortion pills for early medical abortion. Contrary to the situation in England, it is heartening to see that the Government in Wales has listened to women and the calls of healthcare professionals to make this service permanent.
“Telemedicine has enabled thousands of women to access safer abortion care during a time when travel and face-to-face consultations needed to be severely restricted due to risk of COVID-19 infection. We are delighted that this positive change will be maintained, so that women can continue to access telemedicine abortion care services permanently beyond the pandemic.
“Allowing home use of the first abortion pill, mifepristone, for early medical abortion enhances women’s options - and makes this safe and effective healthcare treatment easier to access. We urge the Scottish Government to follow suit and to enable women to access essential healthcare at home.”
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said:
“We are delighted the Welsh Government has listened to medical professionals and women, and has committed to making the telemedicine service for early medical abortion at home permanent in Wales.
“This is a huge win for women in Wales and makes the decision by the UK government harder to justify. We do not understand why a safe effective service with strong evidence to back this up should be threatened - telemedicine has created a more equitable service which has enabled thousands of people to access the care they need more quickly, and just as safely, while also being a more efficient use of NHS resources.”
For further information please contact Camila Azevedo, FSRH External Affairs Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org / 07379408587
Notes to editors
- The Government’s announcement can be found here
- Alongside a coalition of charities and organisations, we have published a letter to Eluned Morgan MS, The Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services, requesting the continuation of telemedicine for early medical abortion beyond the pandemic because telemedical abortion care is safe, effective, and accessible. Signatories included the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists RCOG), The Royal College of Midwives (RCM), The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), Amnesty International UK, Doctors for Choice UK and Welsh Women’s Aid. You can find it here.
- At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ministers in England, Scotland, and Wales granted temporary permission for early medical abortion treatment to be received by post following a telemedical consultation to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. This move has allowed more than 100,000 women to end pregnancies from the comfort and privacy of their own homes.
- Following public consultations, the Government in Scotland is still considering whether or not to make telemedicine a permanent option for women, whereas the Government in England announced yesterday the end of the telemedicine service in late August 2022. You can read our response to the announcement by the English Government here.
- There is overwhelming evidence that allowing women to use the two pills required for an early medical abortion at home has created a safe and more effective service. The largest ever study of UK abortion care analysed the outcomes of more than 50,000 early medical abortions that took place in England, Scotland and Wales between January and June 2020 and found that with the introduction of the telemedicine service:
- Waiting times for abortion treatment improved from 10.7 days to 6.5 days
- Women were able to receive care much earlier in their pregnancy, with 40% of abortions provided at less than six weeks.
- An independent poll, conducted by Savanta Com-Res, shows that the great majority of women and pregnant people in the UK would like to continue to have the option to access early medical abortion care via telemedicine.
- We support calls from across the charity and medical sectors to see the continuation of telemedicine beyond the pandemic, including backing from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC), British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), MSI Reproductive Choices, and others.
The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the largest UK professional membership organisation working at the heart of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), supporting healthcare professionals to deliver high quality care. It works with its 15,000 members, to shape sexual reproductive health for all. It produces evidence-based clinical guidance, standards, training, qualifications and research into SRH. It also delivers conferences and publishes the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health in partnership with the BMJ.
The RCOG is a medical charity that champions the provision of high-quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.