Majority of England’s abortion clinics require significant safety improvements

Over 60% of England’s abortion clinics are rated “inadequate” or “requires improvement” when it comes to safety. 

In response to a parliamentary question, asked by pro-life MP Fiona Bruce, the Minister for Care has revealed that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) currently rates 121 (59.3%) abortion clinics in England as “requires improvement,” on safety, with nine (3.75%) more rated “inadequate.”

The independent regulator of health and social care in England implemented their mandatory rating system in 2017 in response to a litany of ongoing health concerns at abortion clinics. When the CQC rates abortion clinics, they ask if they are safe, effective, caring, responsive to people’s needs, and well-led.

Philip Dunne, who was Health Minister at the time the CQC introduced its ratings system, said: “These new powers will help the CQC to shine a light on poor practice in services that for too long have had too many examples of substandard care.”

In recent months, the CQC has released alarming reports detailing health and safety abuses at two of the largest abortion clinics in the UK.

Earlier this year, inspectors found an abortion clinic in London which specialises in late-term terminations was putting the lives of women at risk with incompetent staff, who had not completed life support training, and equipment that was not in “good working order”.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service’s abortion clinic in Streatham performed 4,404 abortions in 2018, including 491 late-term abortions on babies at 20 weeks’ gestation or later – making it the second-largest number of late-term abortions in the UK in 2018.

In their report, the CQC notes that two serious incidents and 76 clinical incidents occurred at the clinic between April 2018 and April 2019. 

However, this is likely only the tip of the iceberg as inspectors discovered that “staff did not always report incidents as they felt there was a blame culture”.

One staff member even disclosed to an inspector, “if you raise concerns then you have to face the consequences. I have learnt to keep quiet”

Alarmingly, only nine of the clinic’s twenty-four members of staff had received training to spot and treat sepsis, which is the leading cause of maternal death in the UK. 

In November, the CQC handed BPAS Merseyside the worst rating of any private abortion provider since the new rating system was introduced.

The health regulator was contacted by the local NHS trust who “raised concerns regarding the frequency of patients coming to them from BPAS Merseyside”.

Inspectors found six cases of women who “required urgent medical attention due to complications and were transferred from the service to another healthcare provider between January and December 2018.”

They also found that BPAS Merseyside “staff did not consistently adhere to the infection prevention and control measures specified by the service” including not washing hands, not securing clinical waste, and using out of date equipment.

This is not the first time that the Care Quality Commission has raised concerns about the care given to women at BPAS Merseyside, which performed 4,585 terminations in 2018 – placing it among the top 10 abortion providers in the country.

In 2017, the CQC found 16 serious incidents had occurred in which patients were admitted to hospital for emergency treatment over a period of three years. Over the same period, 11 women were transferred for emergency hospital treatment after suffering serious injuries, including eight cases in a 15 month period from January 2015 – March 2016.

A surgeon contracted by the clinic has been struck off the medical register for endangered at least three women’s lives during abortions carried out in May and June 2017.

In 2016, Marie Stopes International was forced to suspend abortion services for a month after an unannounced inspection by the CQC “found dead foetuses lying in an open bin and staff trying to give a vulnerable, visibly distressed woman an abortion without her consent”.

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“Philip Dunne was correct when he said the Care Quality Commissions new rating and reporting system would shine a light on ‘poor practice in services that for too long have had too many examples of substandard care’.

“The figures released recently, and the continuous shambolic example of abortion services in Merseyside, display perfectly the callous disregard for health and safety from the abortion industry. Abortion providers, which receive tens of millions of pounds of taxpayer money annually, have been found to be placing the health and safety of their patients at risk.

“The Care Quality Commission notes the safety in a majority of abortion clinics requires improvement but the only real improvement that can be made to abortion clinics, for the lives of both women and unborn babies, would be for them to be closed.”

Four more abortion clinics close across the West Midlands

Four more Marie Stopes International abortion clinics have shut down across the West Midlands but terminations will continue in the region under a new contract given to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). 

It follows the closure of the Marie Stopes International Birmingham abortion clinic in Edgbaston, following a litany of safety issues that put women at serious risk spanning decades.

The notorious clinic, previously known as the Calthorpe Clinic performed 6,153 abortions in 2018, making it the fourth-largest abortion centre in the UK.

The four clinics closed were all Marie Stopes International ‘early medical units’ performing medical abortions under ten weeks gestation.

The units in Birmingham, Nuneaton, Sandwell and Wolverhampton were responsible for the terminations of 1815 unborn babies in 2018.

The closures were due to a re-procurement of abortion ‘services’ by Sandwell and Walsall, West Birmingham, and Wolverhampton Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).            

Marie Stopes was commissioned to provide abortion services by the CCGs in 2012, but did not re-bid for the contract when ‘abortion services were re-commissioned at the end of 2019’.

This resulted in the UK’s largest abortion provider, BPAS, which already has abortion clinics across the region being awarded the NHS contract for performing abortions in the region. 

Richard Bentley, Marie Stopes’ managing director, claimed the decision not to re-bid for the contract was down to the ‘unsustainable level of funding available’.

He said: “With the re-commissioning of services in the latter part of 2019, we took the difficult decision to not re-bid for the contract, as we were of the opinion that the level of funding being made available was not sustainable…

“We have been open and transparent with commissioners about the real cost of running the services, but despite lengthy discussions, the level of funding has not, in our opinion, been increased to sustainable levels to provide high quality, local services.”

However, Marie Stopes International did find the funding to pay its chief executive £434,500 in 2018, placing him in the top-10 highest earners in the charity sector.

The 2018 accounts of the abortion provider also revealed a record income of £296.8 million after they received over £48 million from the Department for International Development, their single largest donor.

A joint statement from Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, Walsall CCG and Wolverhampton CCG’s announced they were pleased to welcome BPAS as the new provider of abortion services in the region, and that they commenced services on January 1, 2020.

They also announced that surgical abortions would take place in Walsall Manor Hospital, in addition to BPAS abortion clinics.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson has previously highlighted the irony of abortions taking place in hospitals.

Calling on the Government to revisit the topic of abortion time limits, following news that the survival rate for extremely premature babies has doubled over the past decade, she said:

“There is a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive before 24 weeks whilst in another room, a doctor could perform an abortion which would end the life of a baby at the same age. Surely this contradiction needs to end?”

The abortion industry has a chequered history in the West Midlands and has made the news on more than one occasion.

In 2000, Dr Andrew Gbinigie caused serious injuries to a young woman seeking an abortion in Birmingham. Her life was narrowly saved by three consultants, but at the cost of a kidney. In 2006, a nurse failed to check a client’s personal details and consequently gave a chemical abortion to the wrong woman. More evidence of poor conduct came to light in 2012 when Dr Palaniappan Rajmohan was caught on camera by undercover journalists offering to carry out sex-selective abortions.

In 2016 MSI Birmingham along with other MSI centres around the country had some of their ‘services’ suspended due to procedural and safety concerns raised by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). These included concerns that the right protocols weren’t in place to ensure girls under the age of 18 were able to give informed consent to their abortion, as well as concerns relating to all surgical abortions after 12 weeks.

Recent inspections revealed that between March 2018 and Feb 2019 there were 18 incidents where patients had to be transferred from the location to an NHS hospital. Volunteers offering pro-life help outside the clinic told March for Life UK it was not uncommon to see 2 or 3 ambulances lined up outside the building.