All women should be able to access both medical and surgical procedures to terminate their pregnancy, according to draft guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
The draft guideline aims to improve the organisation of abortion care services and make it easier for women to access them. This includes aiming to provide women with an initial appointment within one week of requesting one and undertaking the procedure within one week of the appointment.
It also says that women should be able to refer themselves to services, rather than having to book an appointment with their doctor first. This removes an unnecessary step in the process, allowing women to access treatment more quickly.
Women have the option of either a medical (taking mifepristone followed by misoprostol) or undergoing a surgical procedure.
The draft guideline also states that abortion care training should be undertaken by all healthcare professionals who have it as part of their core curriculum, unless they opt-out due to a conscientious objection.
Professor Lesley Regan, president of the RCOG, said: “Abortion care is an essential area of women’s healthcare and it is crucial that women are given a choice of medical or surgical treatment options and have access to safe, timely and compassionate care.
“These guidelines will help to address significant barriers that women experience across the country, by reducing waiting times and making it easier for them to access services. It’s also absolutely vital that more healthcare professionals are trained in this key area of women’s healthcare to ensure services are sustainable in the long-term.”
Paul Chrisp, director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, said: “Integrating and streamlining services should help improve access for all women, leading to shorter waiting times and allowing earlier terminations. This provides multiple benefits to the woman, including being able to have a medical termination at home.”
Iain Cameron, chair of the guideline committee and emeritus professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Southampton, said: “The evidence suggested that a shortage of staff trained in termination of pregnancy services was making it harder for some providers to offer all procedures. Giving trainee healthcare professionals the opportunity to gain experience in termination of pregnancy services should enhance access to this essential aspect of women’s care.”