BPAS has reported that its abortion services are “under considerable pressure” and that the number of calls it has been receiving increased by about a third in the six months March to September this year.
During the same period our volunteers were making mystery client calls to BPAS and MSI Reproductive Choices, and we found a significant drop in the service standards compared to when we made similar calls in 2020.
Many of our volunteers waited on-hold for 40 minutes or more before being put through to a BPAS call-handler. Volunteers had to wait for as long as 14 days before they could get an appointment for a telephone call with a BPAS clinician; in 2020 these consultation calls were being offered for the next day.
Clare Murphy, chief executive of BPAS, said: “…the earlier it [abortion] can be offered the better for women’s health and wellbeing.”
And yet because she has been unable to adequately manage her organisation’s service standards, her clients are having to wait more than two weeks from when they first make contact until they receive the abortion treatment pack in the post. We know that many women are not able to start the medical abortion treatment on the day the pills are received, may waiting for the next weekend before starting.
This drop in service standards means that many of Murphy’s clients will be into their ninth week of pregnancy before starting the abortion treatment. So, I’m not surprised to read that BPAS is warning that these increased waiting times will mean that women may require later, surgical treatment as a result. A significant proportion of our volunteers were at least ten weeks pregnant by the time they might have been able start the medical abortion treatment provided by BPAS, noting that the legal limit is 9-weeks-6-days.
Notwithstanding the contested nature of abortion, and in particular self-managed medical abortion at home, this is a NHS-funded service which has been outsourced to BPAS, and it is failing to deliver. Making vulnerable women and girls wait up to two weeks to get a phone call with a BPAS abortion nurse is pathetic. Women and girls deserve so much better than this.