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RCOG/FSRH welcome Government’s decision to reinstate telemedicine for abortion care

News 30 March 2020

Following last week’s withdrawal of guidance allowing women to take the first course of abortion medication at home after a consultation on the phone, the Department of Health and Social Care has reinstated telemedicine for early medical abortion.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) strongly welcome the decision, which will protect women who seek abortion care during the COVID-19 outbreak.

*Update on Wednesday 1 April 2020 - Scotland and Wales have joined England in offering telemedicine for early medical abortion care. We hope Northern Ireland will follow shortly.*

Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“We welcome today’s decision to allow women in England seeking an early medical abortion to remain at home, have their consultation performed remotely and be sent a treatment package through the post.

“Giving women the option of taking both abortion pills at home following a video consultation is safe and effective and has rightly been judged as a vital and necessary step if we are to limit the spread of COVID-19. Many women will no longer be forced to make the difficult decision between leaving their home and continuing with an unwanted pregnancy.

“This change in practice will reduce pressure on the health system while limiting the unnecessary risk of infection for women, their families and health workers.

"We now urge Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to introduce similar measures to help protect frontline staff."

Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, said:

“Clinicians working in sexual and reproductive healthcare are being redeployed to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, and women are finding it increasingly hard to access contraception to prevent unplanned pregnancies.

“Maternity and abortion services are closing their doors, and there is a severe shortage of midwives. Thousands of face-to-face appointments for abortion care have been cancelled. Women are caught in the middle of this perfect storm, trying to do what is best for them and their household.

“It is only right that the Government has decided to reinstate telemedicine for abortion consultations and home use of mifepristone, the first course of early medical abortion treatment. Last week’s withdrawal of this decision by the Government has only served to make it harder for women to take heed of its own advice to stay home, thereby protecting NHS staff and saving lives.

“Telemedicine for abortion care assessments is already recommended in NICE guidelines. Home use of the first course of abortion pills for early medical abortion will avoid unnecessary and risky visits to healthcare facilities, ensuring women have access to safe and timely healthcare. This change could not have happened soon enough.

“We urge the other nations in the UK to follow suit and enable women to access essential reproductive healthcare at home.”

Ends

Notes to editors

For media enquiries, please contact the RCOG press office on +44 (0)20 7045 6773 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk.

  • Women and girls will be able to take both pills for early medical abortion up to 10 weeks in their own homes, without the need to first attend a hospital or clinic.
  • Doctors will be able to prescribe both pills for the treatment of early medical abortion up to 10 weeks from their own homes.This is a temporary approval in light of COVID-19 and expires on the day on which the temporary provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020 expire, or the end of the period of two years beginning with the day on which it is made, whichever is earlier.
  • A letter to the editor of the Sunday Times published on Sunday 29 March called for the immediate introduction of telemedical abortion services to reduce coronavirus transmission.
  • The FSRH, RCOG, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Marie Stopes, the National Unplanned Pregnancy Advisory Service (NUPAS), the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), and the British Society for Abortion Care Providers (BSACP), have written a joint letter to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock, urging him to legalise the certification of abortion with one doctor’s signature during COVID-19 outbreak.

 

Temporary approval of home use for both stages of early medical abortion in England

Temporary approval of home use for both stages of early medical abortion in Wales

Temporary approval of home use for both stages of early medical abortion in Scotland