A damning report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has raised concerns about patient safety at Marie Stopes abortion clinics.
The health watchdog visited 12 of its 60 clinics between April and August this year and found several causes for concern.
They included some staff with limited knowledge of procedures obtaining consent from patients. Doctors at one clinic were found to be “bulk signing” up to 60 consent forms at a time when they were not necessarily familiar with the patients’ cases.
In another, a woman with learning difficulties was found to not fully understood the procedure.
As a result of the findings, Marie Stopes International voluntarily suspended some of its abortion services, although the CQC allowed them all to resume by the end of October.
Patients are likely to be emotionally fragile at the time of an abortion procedure and it is therefore essential that family planning providers, GPs or clinics fulfil their legal duty to provide as much information as possible before going ahead. Patients in all manners of surgical and medical procedures need to be confident in their healthcare provider’s expertise, especially when vulnerable.
Women have a right to be safe when undergoing a termination procedure as they would in any other surgical procedure. According to the NHS, abortions are safest when carried out as early as possible in pregnancy but as with all medical procedures, there are risks. Patients should be made aware of all of the associated risks of an abortion before going ahead with any procedure. Some of these risks include infection of the womb, excessive bleeding, and damage to the womb and cervix.
Women have a right to be safe when undergoing a termination procedure as they would in any other surgical procedure.
In the unfortunate event of something going wrong, you should contact the provider and ask them to explain what happened. Duty of candour is a legal duty on a hospital, clinic or healthcare provider that means they must inform a patient if mistakes have been made which have caused significant harm. If you are still not satisfied, a medical negligence solicitor will be able to advise you further.
The CQC’s recently published report revealed that 2,634 incidents were recorded at Marie Stopes clinics between 2015 and 2016 – an increase of 704 from the previous year, with limited explanations as to why.
In August 2016, surgical abortions were suspended for vulnerable women and under-18-year-olds due to concerns raised by the CQC over patient safety. It also halted terminations under general anaesthetic or conscious sedation and suspended all surgical terminations at the provider's Norwich centre. Services resumed in October.
Professor Edward Baker, deputy chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, told the BBC : "Our concerns at a corporate level - particularly around governance arrangements, staff training, and around patient safety and safeguarding protocols - did not give us the necessary assurance that patients would be protected from avoidable harm at all times, that possible safeguarding concerns could be identified and that incidents could be reported and learned from."
The CQC report made numerous recommendations following its inspections and says the organisation has made progress since. This is encouraging, but it is important that it is maintained and practices and procedures are more closely monitored in future to ensure the safety of patients Marie Stopes clinics.
Emma Doughty is Deputy Head of Clinical Negligence at Slater and Gordon in London and Cambridge.
The clinical negligence solicitors at Slater and Gordon specialise in claims against the NHS, GPs, private doctors and hospitals arising out of negligent medical treatment and acts on behalf of injured victims.
For a free consultation about a clinical or medical negligence compensation claim call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online and we will call you.