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GPs express concerns over abortion service provision

The Laois/Offaly Faculty proposed that general practice was not a setting that could provide abortion services from a patient safety perspective, taking into account individual doctor choice and the absence of resources, such as training and timely access to psychological support and ultrasound scans.

Faculty Chair Dr Mary Sheehan said “one cannot talk somebody through a major decision like this in a 10-to-15 minute consultation, so there will need to be resources, like counselling services”.

“We locally cannot get dating scans without sending somebody to the early pregnancy unit, which has already got a waiting list. We also cannot get blood grouping done locally, and somebody may not want this pregnancy but they may not want to compromise a future pregnancy, so they need to know their rhesus status and if they have a termination, they [may] need anti-D.”

She said the service could not be delivered safely in “day-to-day” general practice. Dr Sheehan said there may be a model whereby referrals could be made to a local GP with the necessary training and resources.

Cork GP Dr Mary Favier, who was heavily involved in the ‘yes’ campaign, said international evidence showed family community medicine was the safest place to deliver such services. Dr Favier said she “absolutely” respected conscientious objection. She also agreed that resources were “vital” and that “it should never have been described as GP-led; it is going to be community-provided”.

Nevertheless, she questioned the “optics” of highlighting these types of issues on the day of the referendum result.

Dr Sheehan said the Faculty could remit the motion to Council. She said the Faculty felt patient safety was “not the main focus of the argument” when the Government said the service would be GP-delivered.

Separately, the Wicklow Faculty called on the ICGP to advocate that provision of abortion should be an opt-in service for GPs wishing to upskill and who are properly resourced. This motion was also remitted to Council.

Wexford GP Dr Catherine O’Donohoe said it should be an opt-in service in light of the right to conscientious objection.

College Chair Dr John Gillman noted that the ICGP had never advocated for a “GP-led” abortion service.

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