Private sector abortion clinics are inspected according to the Private and Voluntary Healthcare (England)(Amendment) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/539), (Section 32A), which states that providers will be subject to a minimum of one inspection every five years. Independent sector clinics, approved to perform abortions, by the Secretary of State for Health, are registered with and inspected by the Healthcare Commission. The number of additional inspections is informed following the completion of an annual self-assessment document. If following an inspection, there are areas identified that do not meet regulations, an action plan is requested from the provider to achieve compliance and a time scale for completion. More serious breaches are dealt with by the issue of legal enforcement notices and if non-compliance is still evident, prosecution and possible eventual cancellation of the provider’s registration. If the situation poses a serious threat to the health and welfare of clients, the Commission has the power to seek urgent closure of an establishment using a court order.
Since 1992, one abortion clinic has been closed and one clinic closed voluntarily following an adverse inspection.
The primary and secondary legislation which provides the regulatory regime for abortion clinics in England is:
The Abortion Act 1967, as amended the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, and the Care Standards Act 2000 as amended, the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003; and
Abortion Regulations 1991 (SI 1991/499) as amended by the Abortion (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/887) and the Private and Voluntary Health Care (England) Regulations 2001 (SI 2001/3968), as amended by the Private and Voluntary Healthcare (England)(Amendment) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/539), the Private and Voluntary Healthcare (England)(Amendment No2) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/1734) and the Care Standards Act 2000 (Establishments and Agencies) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/865), the Care Standards Act 2000 (Establishments and Agencies) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/1770) and the Care Standards Act 2000 (Establishments and Agencies) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2006 (2006/1493), the National Care Standards Commission (Registration) Regulations 2001 (SI 2001/3969), as amended by the National Care Standards Commission (Registration)(Amendment) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/369).
Under the terms of approval for the termination of pregnancy by the Secretary of State, clinics are also required to meet the relevant independent health care core, acute and termination of pregnancy national minimum standards. They must also comply with the principles set out in Department’s Procedures for the Approval of Independent Sector Places for the Termination of Pregnancy.
The Health and Social Care Bill, currently before Parliament, seeks to enhance professional regulation and create a new integrated regulator, the Care Quality Commission, for health and adult social care, with focus on providing assurance about the safety and quality of care for patients and service users.