A report released by a British health watchdog outlines numerous safety violations in the country’s abortion facilities run by Marie Stopes International (MSI). In the past year, 2,634 infractions were recorded, an increase of 704 compared to the year before.
Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) initially visited 12 facilities between April and August 2016. The findings were so egregious that MSI had to suspend all surgical abortions for “vulnerable” patients and women under 18. It also could not carry out abortions under general anesthetic or conscious sedation, and all surgical abortions at its Norwich centre were suspended. After satisfying the CQC that its standards had improved, MSI was allowed to provide its full services again in October.
Edward Baker, deputy chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, commented in a press release that while the CQC felt that Mary Stopes’ staff “provided a non-judgmental service and treated patients with dignity and respect,” their findings could not guarantee “that patients would be protected from avoidable harm at all times.” Baker indicated that the CQC would continue to monitor MSI and “will not hesitate to take further action, if necessary in order to guarantee this provider meets the standard of care we expect and that its patients deserve.”
“Women are being railroaded through an industry which gets paid for as many abortions as it can perform,” said Labour MP Robert Flello to the Daily Mail. “Perhaps now the Department of Health will wake up because it has turned a blind eye to things not being done properly.”
The findings in the report showed several failings on the part of facility staff. At the Norwich site, “multiple surgical termination products were left in a single open hazardous waste bin in a sluice room next to theatres for the whole day.” Physicians at the Essex facility were going home and leaving sedated patients under the care of nurses and healthcare assistants who were not trained in how to respond to medical emergencies. In fact, almost one half of MSI’s nurses did not have training in resuscitation.
In one case, inspectors found that the procedure was not adequately explained to a woman with learning disabilities arriving for an abortion at the Sandwell location in the West Midlands. The physicians handled the consultation “poorly and insensitively” and the inspectors had to intervene. In South London, nurses and healthcare assistants were tasked with getting patient consent, even though this should have been done by the doctor. At several clinics, physicians were “bulk signing” up to 60 consent forms at a time and “pre-signing” consent forms without being aware of the particulars of the patient.
Other violations included failing to update guidelines for anesthesia and sedation that were due to be reviewed in 2013, not following surgical checklists, demonstrating poor hand hygiene and pre-surgical preparation, and failing to provide adequate central clinical oversight over the running of individual facilities.
The findings of the report received coverage from several British media agencies, including the Daily Mail, the Guardian, the Sun, the BBC, and the Telegraph. However, writing for the Guardian, columnist Ann Furedi used the commission’s findings to argue for a loosening of British abortion laws.
MSI is the largest private abortion agency in the United Kingdom and second largest after the government-run National Health Service. It commits 70,000 abortions per year, with most of them funded by British taxpayers.