Abortion doctors are breaking the law and 'face jail over faked forms' says Government
01:09 GMT, 24 March 2012
01:09 GMT, 24 March 2012
Doctors found to be illegally carrying out abortions by faking consent forms could be jailed, the Government said yesterday.
The warning was issued after it emerged that one in five clinics investigated by the health watchdog was routinely breaking the law by not complying with official guidelines.
Inspectors discovered that some doctors were signing consent forms allowing women to undergo abortions without knowing anything about their circumstances or why they wanted the procedure. This breaches the Abortion Act.
'If there is evidence of an offence we will give it directly to the police,' Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said
Over the last two weeks the Care Quality Commission has been undertaking spot check inspections of around 250 abortion clinics in England.
The watchdog found that at least 50 were not complying with the official guidelines. In some clinics they found that doctors had signed piles of consent forms without knowing anything of the circumstances of the women involved. By law, a woman can only undergo an abortion once two doctors have signed a form declaring that continuing with the pregnancy would put her physical and mental health at risk.
Both doctors must have either seen the woman or read her medical notes plus a detailed account of her consultation at a clinic. But the CQC inspectors found some doctors were signing batches of blank forms in advance.
In a statement to Parliament yesterday, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley pledged to take swift action. He said: ‘I completely understand the law doesn’t require the doctor to have met the woman concerned, but to pre-sign certificates when you don’t even know which woman it relates to and there hasn’t been an assessment, is completely contrary to the spirit and letter of the law.
‘We’re dealing with all this quickly. If there is evidence of an offence we will give it directly to the police.’
Mr Lansley also warned that offending clinics could be shut down.
A Department of Health spokesman confirmed that doctors could face jail for breaching the Act.
During the spot checks, other clinics were found to be failing to offer women proper advice and counselling.
The clinics inspected included those run by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Marie Stopes, the NHS and private firms. Marie Stopes said none of its 19 units was found to have breached the rules, while BPAS said that, to the best of its knowledge, none of its clinics were involved.
Mr Lansley ordered the inspections after an undercover investigation found that some doctors were apparently authorising abortions for women just because the foetus was a particular sex, which is against the law.
One doctor has been suspended by the General Medical Council while two others have been temporarily banned from carrying out abortions.