HSE looks to recruit clinical lead for abortion services rollout

Nine months after service introduced part-time two-year position to be filled

Paul Reid, director general HSE. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Paul Reid, director general HSE. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw


The Health Service Executive is seeking to recruit a clinical lead for abortion, nine months after the service was introduced.

The person appointed will be tasked with the rollout of termination of pregnancy services to all 19 maternity units, and nationally in GP surgeries and other community settings.

At present, abortion services are available in only 10 maternity units and through about 350 GPs in the community.

The person to be appointed will be required to provide clinical leadership for the implementation of “safe, evidence-based, quality-assured, woman-centred, accessible services for women who require abortion care”, according to the role description.

The post is a part-time one, open to experienced obstetricians and gynaecologists for a two-year period. The HSE says it may be re-advertised thereafter “if the continuation of the role is deemed necessary”. Among the responsibilities of the post-holder will be the provision of clinical leadership to support implementation of abortion services nationally in acute and community services.

The person, to be seconded to the post for two days a week, will also be responsible for the rollout of the service in all 19 maternity units.

The HSE says it is important that termination of pregnancy services are integrated into general gynaecological and reproductive healthcare services.

Last week, the Medical Council issued revised ethical guidance for doctors following the introduction of abortion services in January. While allowing doctors to opt out on grounds of conscience, the guidance also sets out the obligations the doctor has to the patient in such circumstances.

“If the patient cannot arrange their own transfer of care, you should make these arrangements on their behalf. In an emergency situation, you must provide – as a matter of priority – the care and treatment your patient needs,” it states.

Abortion up to 12 weeks was legalised last January; after 12 weeks, it is allowed only in certain specific circumstances, including where there is a risk to the life or health of the mother.

Maternity survey

Separately, all women who give birth to a baby in the State’s maternity units next month are to be surveyed about their experience.

The first national maternity experience survey, which will also take place in smaller units in November, aims to learn from the experiences of women so the safety and quality of care can be improved.

Maternity services have been embroiled in a number of controversies in recent years, including the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012 and a series of baby deaths at Portlaoise hospital. Earlier this year, dozens of women took to the air, on RTÉ Radio’s Liveline, to complain about their own experience of giving birth in Irish hospitals.

Information sessions for maternity staff about the survey are being held next week and the women will be surveyed in early 2020.