NHS 'needs resources for more use of abortion pill'

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

AN OVERHAUL of NHS abortion services and extra resources are necessary if more women are to have an early termination of pregnancy with the abortion pill, RU486, family planning experts said yesterday, writes Liz Hunt.

Two years after the drug was introduced in Britain many hospitals do not have the facilities for a medical termination instead of a surgical abortion, or enough nursing staff to supervise its use. Five thousand women have received RU486 so far.

There is uneven distribution of RU486, or Myfegyne. At a meeting in London organised by the Birth Control Trust, gynaecologists and family planning experts heard that of NHS hospitals that provide early abortion, only a third in England and Wales and half in Scotland offer RU486.

In private clinics, the restrictions imposed by the Department of Health on the use of RU486 mean it is more expensive than surgery in many cases.

The drug was expected to bring a substantial drop in the number of surgical abortions. Clinical trials have shown it to be safe, effective and less traumatic for women than surgery.

After taking RU486 women need to stay at the clinic or hospital for two hours to ensure the pills are absorbed. They return 48 hours later to be given a hormone pessary and then must remain under observation for six hours. Dilys Cossey, director of the BCT, said hospitals and clinics did not have waiting rooms for women to sit in.