The RCOG and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) have responded to the latest 2020 abortion statistics for England and Wales.
There has been a 1% increase in the total number of abortions last year, with a total of 209,917 in England and Wales.
In March 2020, the UK and Welsh governments approved the home use of mifepristone, the first medicine used in early medical abortion. This allowed early medical abortion care to be delivered entirely remotely for those eligible, through a virtual consultation.
The data shows that this new pathway has become the standard, with 46% of all procedures in England being provided via telemedicine, and 62% of all procedures in Wales.
In April 2020, the RCOG and FSRH urged the UK Government, and devolved nations, to introduce the necessary regulatory changes to allow both early medical abortion medicines to be taken at home. This has helped to reduce transmission of the coronavirus, has led to an decrease in the average duration of pregnancies at the time of treatment and reduced waiting times. It has crucially created a kinder service for women.
The data also shows the continuing trend of an increasing number of abortions for over 35s. As well as women in the most deprived areas more than twice as likely to have an abortion than those in the least deprived. This may signal a large unmet need for contraception, exacerbated by the fragmentation of sexual and reproductive healthcare services.
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:
“Throughout the pandemic, early medical abortion has been redesigned to adopt a new model of care delivered virtually. This helped to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus, kept women and their families safe, and supported the delivery of essential healthcare.
“The data published today shows not only has this helped with our efforts to deal with the pandemic, but has delivered significant benefits for women by increasing access and reducing waiting times, allowing women to receive care earlier in their pregnancy.
“We hope that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care listens to the evidence from healthcare professionals, and considers the data released today, before concluding that permanently adopting a telemedicine model is in the interests of the women and girls.”
Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) said:
“The figures published today demonstrate the positive impact of telemedicine abortion care, which has significantly reduced waiting times for essential women’s healthcare. It has also reduced unnecessary visits to clinics and increased access to early medical abortion care.
“With this in mind, we emphasise the need for access to safe and effective abortion services across the UK. We call on the Department of Health and Social Care to recognise the positive step telemedical abortion care is for the progress of women’s health, and make telemedicine for early medical abortion care permanent following the Government’s consultation.
“Beyond this, the rise in rates to older women – with the highest increase being seen in women aged 30-35 – may indicate that women’s contraceptive needs are not being met. Our members continue to report reduced access to the full range of contraception in primary care and community settings, citing fragmented commissioning systems and reduced funding as key causes.
“Women must be supported to take control of their own reproductive health. Any efforts to ensure access to safe abortion care must therefore be supported by improved contraceptive provision for all women – regardless of age, ethnicity or location.”
For media enquiries, please contact the RCOG press office on +44 (0)20 7045 6773 or email email@example.com
Notes to editors
The abortion statistics published by the Department of Health and Social Care can be found here.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (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. For more information, visit: www.rcog.org.uk
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. You can find further information here.