Marie Stopes abortions for under-18s and vulnerable women halted

Terminations for vulnerable groups suspended by Marie Stopes in light of Care Quality Commission concerns

Abortion services for under-18s and vulnerable women at Marie Stopes centres have been suspended because of safeguarding concerns.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has highlighted concern about poor governance arrangements at Marie Stopes International (MSI) in areas including consent and safeguarding.

The regulator said inspections at a number of clinics in England found a lack of assurance in training and competence in conscious sedation and general anaesthesia. 

Widespread suspensions

MSI has now suspended all termination services for under-18s and vulnerable women who require additional consent at its English centres. The suspension also applies to its centre in Belfast, which does not provide surgical terminations because these are illegal in the province.

MSI has also suspended all terminations under general anaesthetic or conscious sedation in England and all surgical terminations at its Norwich centre. Around 250 women a week will now need to use other providers. 

Contingency arrangements

NHS England said there are contingency arrangements so patients can receive high quality care elsewhere. MSI, which employs 102 nurses in England and Northern Ireland, said it expects the suspension to be brief.

MSI chief executive Simon Cooke said it was working with the CQC on areas of concern and expected to regain full assurance in relation to the suspended services within days.

CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals Edward Baker said: ‘At all times, our priority is to ensure patients get safe, high quality and compassionate care. We believe the action taken is appropriate to address our concerns.’

Problems revealed

The CQC identified concerns after planned inspections of MSI centres in England. It carried out an unannounced inspection of the corporate headquarters last month and of its call centre on 12 August.

Public Health England has a confidential helpline for those needing advice on accessing services. The number is 0300 123 1041, 9am-8pm on weekdays and 9am-5pm at weekends. The number for women in Northern Ireland and the Irish republic is 1800 882 677. 


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