‘Let nurse practitioners sign abortion consents’

Law’s insistence on doctors’ consent for abortion is paternalistic – Commons health committee chair

Law’s insistence on doctors’ consent for abortion is paternalistic – Commons health committee chair

Sarah Wollaston. Picture: Matt Austin

England's abortion law should be amended to allow nurse practitioners to sign consent forms, according to a leading Tory MP and doctor.

Commons health and social care committee chair Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes in Devon and a former GP there, made the comments during an interview on Channel 4 News.

Dr Wollaston said the current legal requirement that two doctors sign permission for a woman to undergo an abortion should be updated to reflect modern clinical practice.

‘We have amazing specialist nurse practitioners’

She said: 'I have always felt that is rather paternalistic. When you think now about the amazing specialist nurse practitioners we have, it does seem an anomaly that it needs to be two doctors signing.

'We know women want to be able to access – if that is their choice – specialist counselling and that is often carried out now by specialist practitioners who aren't doctors.

'It doesn't, in my view, need to stipulate it is two doctors – there are strong reasons for keeping [abortion] in a medical context, but it is a bit paternalistic that it has to be two doctors.'

Dr Wollaston made the comments as part of a discussion about amending Northern Ireland's abortion law to reflect the result of last week's historic referendum, which overturned the ban on abortion in the Republic of Ireland.

RCN professional lead for midwifery and women's health Carmel Bagness, said the college supported the development of nursing skills to enhance the quality of care for women. 

However, Ms Bagness said any changes to nurses' role in abortions would need to be supported, and be in the best interests of women. 

'This always has to be within the context of contemporary legislation and regulation and any changes to current practice would need to benefit women receiving care.

'It would also require appropriate training and education to ensure nurses understand the requirements and consequences of any additional responsibilities.'

Further information

Watch Channel 4's interview with Dr Sarah Wollaston

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