A quarter of GPs will not provide an abortion service and would be reluctant to refer a pregnant woman to a colleague, a survey by the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) found.
The ICGP’s online consultation process noted only a third (32%) of the 3,500 GPs surveyed are currently willing and able to provide termination of pregnancy services.
The other 43% said they are not in a position to offer such services due to concerns regarding capacity, resources, or conscientious objection but are willing to refer to another colleague.
ICGP said it carried out the survey to guide the development of clinical guidelines for the provision of termination of pregnancy services in the community.
It said the consultation showed GPs strongly believe the provision of a suitably-staffed 24-hour helpline is a vital element of the service, as it will be a mechanism to ensure that those who do not wish to provide the service will not be required to do so.
“The data indicates that the majority of GPs are either willing to provide the service or refer a patient to another doctor who will,” said Tony Cox, medical director of the ICGP.
He said a 24-hour helpline would help women seeking an abortion to be referred to a GP or other provider in the community who was able to provide the service to them.
“Of those who do not wish to provide a service, resourcing and workload is a major concern. Our feedback shows that there is genuine worry that the promised rapid access to ultrasound scans and hospital care will not be delivered.
The college is in the midst of a series of nationwide regional meetings for members to discuss their concerns about abortion services.
It will also hold an extraordinary general meeting of its members on December 2 to discuss the provision of abortion services by GPs.
“Recent media reports that over 600 college members had called for this EGM are incorrect,” said the college.
“The original request was accompanied by a list of names of which 373 were members of the college.”