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Abortion care services should offer women a choice of procedure, says new guidance

News 12 April 2019

All women should be able to access both medical and surgical procedures to terminate their pregnancy, says draft guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence published today.

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 1 week of requesting one and undertaking the procedure within 1 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 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 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 the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence, said: “Choosing to terminate a pregnancy is an important part of reproductive health for many women, which is why it’s essential that providers are able to offer consistent support and advice.

“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.”

Note to Editors

For media enquiries, please contact the RCOG press office on 020 7045 6773 or email

The draft guideline is currently open for public consultation until 31 May 2019.

About the RCOG
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 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.

About NICE
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is the independent body responsible for driving improvement and excellence in the health and social care system. We develop guidance, standards and information on high-quality health and social care. We also advise on ways to promote healthy living and prevent ill health.