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British Government drags its feet for almost 18 months over investigating doctors in 14 NHS trusts who pre-signed abortion forms

by | Jun 12, 2013

By Dr. Peter Saunders

Editor’s note. Dr. Saunders is a former general surgeon and is CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organization with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students as members.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley

Last July I blogged about the 14 NHS [National Health Service] abortion clinics which, according to reports by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the health service regulator in England, had broken the law by allowing doctors to pre-sign forms authorising abortions.

The story was covered by the BBC, Telegraph, Daily Mail and Guardian.

The breaches were uncovered in an investigation ordered by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley who asked the CQC to investigate whether the practice, first identified in January 2012, was widespread.

The Abortion Act 1967 requires a form (HSA1) certifying that the requirements for a termination have been met to be signed by two doctors before the procedure takes place.

Pre-signing by one doctor allows another doctor to take a solo decision to allow a termination contrary to the provisions of the Act.

In my blog last summer I pasted the full ministerial statement which made it very clear that the police and General Medical Council were involved. I also listed the NHS Trusts named in the CQC investigation. The ministerial statement concluded as follows:

Investigations by the police, General Medical Council, and Nursing and Midwifery Council continue and further referrals may result from the publication of the CQC reports. We await the outcome of these investigations. In the meantime, my officials will work with a number of bodies including the CQC and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to address the findings from these inspections.

Abortion is still a crime unless it is carried out under the provisions of the Abortion Act and the reason two doctors signatures are involved is because abortion involves the taking of a human life.

Clearly in the case of these 14 NHS abortion clinics at least one named doctor put his or her signature to statutory documents knowingly and wilfully making false claims.

This is a form of perjury.

I said at the time that the CQC must have already had the doctors’ names (as their signatures would have been on the forms) and that if the law was being properly upheld we should expect to hear that at least 14 doctors were being prosecuted for perjury and also appearing before the General Medical Council.

What has happened since? It seems essentially nothing!

On 6 June Baroness Knight of Collingtree asked the following question of Lord Howe (pictured), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health:

‘My Lords, is it not the case that early last year the Government’s own care quality inspectors found, in a number of abortion clinics, piles of forms signed by doctors authorising abortions for women they had never seen, let alone examined? Why has so little been done to stop these happenings when they are so blatantly against the law of the land?’

Lord Howe’s answer was quite revealing:

‘My Lords, the Care Quality Commission has put in place procedures to identify pre-signing or other instances of non-compliance, and they are confident that these would now be picked up during inspections. However, my noble friend is right; there was a concern early last year that this pre-signing was happening. Since then, however, the CQC has been working directly with providers who are registered to provide termination of pregnancy services to ensure that they are complying with the requirements of the Act. It is beginning to explore how it can strengthen the registration process alongside its regular inspection activities. I therefore suggest to my noble friend that it is not a case of nothing having happened.’

So no GMC investigation, no police investigation, no prosecutions. Just that the CQC are ‘working directly with the providers (of abortion)’ by ensuring they comply with regulations and ‘beginning to explore how it can strengthen the registration process’.


Yes that’s ‘beginning to explore’ almost 18 months after concerns were first raised!

Well it is clear that all the government’s strong words last year were nothing but words.

Fourteen reports of perjury and illegal abortion by NHS staff apparently do not warrant anything but empty promises, cover-ups and foot-dragging.

Editor’s note. This appeared at

Categories: International