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Abortion referrals barrier

A quarter of GPs consider themselves to be anti-abortion and many are refusing to refer women with unwanted pregnancies, new GP research shows.

The study found barriers in primary care to abortion access were contributing to a failure to meet NHS target waiting times.

Of the 132 women who took part in the study 15 per cent had to make a second appointment with a GP willing to refer them. Only 44 per cent had an abortion within the target of three weeks from first appointment.

Although the researchers stressed GPs should retain the right to object to abortion on moral or ethical grounds, they warned delays could lead to medical complications.

Study leader Dr Robbie Foy, clinical lecturer in primary care at the University of Newcastle and part-time GP in Gateshead, said: 'Women are already anxious enough about the prospect of seeking an abortion and then to have a 15 per cent chance of being rejected by the GP you are seeking help from is traumatic.'

Dr Foy urged practices to provide clear patient information about GPs unwilling to refer for abortion and have protocols to ensure women could have a second appointment the same day.

Dr Trevor Stammers, a GP in Wimbledon, south London, said he did not refer women for abortion because it was 'detrimental' to health long-term. But he said: 'If she wants to go ahead I would ensure she was sent by another GP within 24 hours.'

The study was published in the latest issue of the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care.

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