An abortion clinic that suspended some termination procedures in England over the summer due to safety concerns has started to reintroduce some of its affected services after addressing the most serious problems.
In August, issues with corporate and clinical governance arrangements and patient safety protocols in specific areas at termination provider Marie Stopes International were identified following an inspection of its services and headquarters by the Care Quality Commission.
In response, Marie Stopes suspended a number of services including pregnancy terminations for under-18s and vulnerable groups of women, abortions carried out under general anaesthetic or conscious sedation, and all surgical terminations at its Norwich centre.
NHS England also activated “contingency arrangements” at the time, which involved diverting around 250 patients a week to alternative providers and setting up a helpline for people with concerns.
In a statement released in the last few days, the CQC said it was now “satisfied” that Marie Stopes had responded to the serious patient safety concerns raised by the regulator.
“Marie Stopes…have accepted the severity of these concerns and have taken appropriate action to address them”
It said it had been monitoring Marie Stopes very closely and reviewing its progress since August and that the most pressing issues – including staff training in key areas – had now been addressed.
Marie Stopes had now begun lifting restrictions it had placed on its termination services, said the CQC, and intended to resume full services across it clinics by the end of October.
The regulator added it was continuing to review the organisation’s progress and it “will not hesitate to take further action to protect patients, if necessary”.
It said that full reports from its inspections of the service were expected to be published later in the year, but that no further details could be disclosed until that point.
Professor Edward Baker, CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals, said: “Given the concerns we identified on our inspections earlier this year, Marie Stopes International’s decision to suspend the specified termination services was the right one.
“Having kept in close contact with the leadership of Marie Stopes International since then, I am glad that they have accepted the severity of these concerns and have taken appropriate action to address them,” he said.
“As the regulator, our priority has been and continues to be to ensure that patients receive safe, high-quality and compassionate care. We will continue to monitor Marie Stopes International closely as its termination services resume,” he added.
Genevieve Edwards, policy director at Marie Stopes UK, said:“We’ve been working hard with the Care Quality Commission to address their concerns and we’re now resuming suspended services across our clinic network. We aim to be fully operational again by the end of October.”
“We’ve made considerable improvements in recent weeks to our management structure, central governance function and training provision and the CQC’s input has been invaluable during this time,” she said.
“We always aim to provide high quality and compassionate services for the women who need them and we will make sure that we learn from this and never again fall below the standards women have every right to expect from us,” she said.
“We’re very grateful to NHS England, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and providers in the NHS who have supported women with alternative local services during this time,” she added.