Skip to main content

Abortion

Volume 447: debated on Tuesday 20 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how much the national health service has given to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service to undertake abortions in each of the last five years for which figures are available, broken down by region; (75638)

(2) how many complaints were made to (a) her Department and (b) the national health service about the British Pregnancy Advisory Service in each of the last five years;

(3) how many early medical abortions were performed by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service at the request of the national health service in each of the last five years, broken down by (a) age of the woman, (b) gestation of the pregnancy and (c) region;

(4) how many women were referred by national health service GPs to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service for an abortion in each of the last five years for which figures are available; and what the (a) age of the woman, (b) gestation of the pregnancy and (c) region of residence was in each case.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for public health gave to the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Dodds) on 18 March 2005, Official Report, column 522W, about the amount of national health service funding given to British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).

The Department has received a couple of complaints during the last five years which were investigated. Information on complaints received by the NHS is not held centrally. Under the Care Standards Act 2000, BPAS is required to supply each patient with a written copy of its complaints procedure, fully investigate each complaint and maintain a detailed, written record of each complaint. BPAS is also required to send the Healthcare Commission a statement every year with a summary of the complaints received. In addition, the Healthcare Commission look at these records as part of a clinic inspection.

The information requested on the number of NHS funded early medical abortions performed by BPAS is shown in the table. Information is not held centrally on the number of women referred to BPAS by NHS general practitioners; the abortion notification form collects the names and addresses of the two registered medical practitioners who authorised the abortion under the Abortion Act.

Total NHS funded medical abortions performed under nine weeks gestation by the BPAS, England, 2000-04

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Age

Under 18

14

31

88

107

142

18

11

17

61

76

129

19

13

39

67

83

152

20

19

23

64

85

161

21

18

46

69

105

148

22

14

42

88

106

145

23

18

39

85

99

161

24

17

25

76

103

161

25

16

23

54

70

143

26

13

29

55

75

124

27

10

27

52

69

140

28

15

32

46

60

108

29

13

23

43

72

106

30

11

18

67

71

99

31

1

27

48

47

95

32

10

25

33

54

89

33

11

22

29

56

80

34

1

16

41

43

73

35 and over

35

99

186

255

427

Total

269

603

1,252

1,636

2,683

Gestation weeks

5 and under

26

43

68

134

245

6

73

162

303

465

717

7

93

234

529

585

1,012

8

77

164

352

452

709

Total

269

603

1,252

1,636

2,683

Region of woman’s residence

East

1

12

17

43

1

East Midlands

1

1

1

1

78

London

45

128

249

362

582

North West

22

26

52

74

1

North East

1

1

1

1

97

South East

132

285

409

507

913

South West

20

36

44

85

192

West Midlands

27

97

376

348

597

Yorkshire and Humber

17

14

83

173

171

Total

269

603

1,252

1,636

2,683

1 Totals less than 10 (0-9 cases) are suppressed. This is in line with the Office for National Statistics’ guidance on the disclosure of abortion statistics, 2005.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research her Department (a) has undertaken and (b) plans to undertake into the reasons for trends in the early medical abortion rate in England and Wales between 2004 and 2005; and if she will make a statement. (75640)

The Department has not undertaken research into the reasons for trends in early medical abortion and has no plans to do so.

Medical abortion is safe, avoids the need for anaesthesia and surgery and offers women a choice of method. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ evidence-based guideline ‘The Care of Women Requesting Induced Abortion (2004)’ encourages abortion services to offer a choice of recommended methods for each gestation band.

There has been a continuing upward trend in medical abortions since 1991 when Mifegyne was licensed for use in the United Kingdom. In 2004, 28 per cent. of the abortions performed under nine weeks gestation were medical abortions.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if she will make it her policy to issue a written ministerial statement to announce the publication of the abortion statistics; and if she will make a statement; (75649)

(2) what the publication date was of the abortion statistics in each of the last five years;

(3) if she will make it her policy to send an embargoed copy of each year's annual abortion statistics to those organisations known to her Department to (a) support and (b) oppose abortion; and if she will make a statement.

Abortion statistics for the last five years were published on the following dates:

2000 published by Office for National Statistics (ONS) in September 2001;

2001 published by ONS in September 2002;

2002 published by the Department in October 2003 and revised in July 2004;

2003 published by the Department in August 2004 and revised in July 2005; and

2004 published by the Department in July 2005.

The annual abortion statistics publication is a National Statistics (NS) product, the publication is released in accordance with the NS Protocol on Release Practices. The 2005 abortion statistics bulletin for England and Wales has been pre-announced for publication in July 2006 on the Department's website.

Sending embargoed copies of statistical publications to organisations prior to the official release date and time is contrary to best practice as set out in the NS Protocol. Best practice is to make the publication, equally available to all, at the same time and the statistics are released as soon as practicable once they and the accompanying commentary are fit for purpose. We therefore do not intend to issue embargoed copies of the annual abortion statistics publication to any organisation.

In addition, the Head of Statistics Profession at the Department has now determined the release date and time for the “Abortion Statistics, England and Wales 2005” publication. This will be on Tuesday 4 July at 9.30 am. The publication will include detailed commentary of the results, reflecting current departmental policy and hence, we have no plans to issue a ministerial statement. On the day of publication, a statistical press release will be issued releasing the figures and providing a web link to the website.