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Abortion: Access

Volume 462: debated on Wednesday 11 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what steps his Department is taking to ensure equality of access to NHS abortion services; (148371)

(2) how many women in England waited (a) less than a week, (b) between one and two weeks, (c) over two weeks but less than four weeks and (d) over four weeks between the date they first requested an NHS abortion and the date of the abortion in each of the last five years.

We are working to ensure that women have access to abortion services as soon as possible as evidence shows that the risk of complications increases the later the gestation. We have invested £8 million to improve early access and set a standard of a maximum waiting time of three weeks. Primary care trusts’ performance in this area is being measured as part of the Healthcare Commission’s annual healthcheck.

Waiting times for abortion are not available but we consider that gestation at procedure is a good indicator of waiting times. The latest data for 2006 show that progress is being made to increase early access: 65 per cent. of national health service funded abortions took place at under 10 weeks compared with 51 per cent. in 2002.

Equality of access and more rapid access to abortion services has improved since the introduction of the Sexual Health and HIV Strategy. In 2006, 87 per cent. of abortions were NHS funded, compared with 78 per cent. in 2002. In addition, since 2002 we have collected patients self-reported ethnicity data to monitor access to services by all groups.