"Cattle-market" Marie Stopes clinic "paid its staff bonuses for abortions"
20 October 2017
Inspectors found that MSI has a nationwide policy of calling women who decided against abortion and offering them a new appointment.
This may be the most damning report yet.
The Care Quality Commission has published a new inspection report on the Marie Stopes clinic in Maidstone, Kent, which reveals a catalogue of abuses and safety violations, as well as a "culture that worked against patient choice."
Bonuses for abortions
The front page of today's Daily Mail led with the finding that the clinic 'paid its staff bonuses for encouraging women to go through with procedures.' The report states that : "staff were concerned that ‘Did Not Proceed’, the term used when women decided not to proceed with treatment, was measured as a KPI [key performance indicator] and linked to their performance bonus. They felt that this encouraged staff to ensure that patients underwent procedures."
Staff were concerned that this created "a culture that worked against patient choice," said the report. "One staff member described it as 'feeling like a hamster in a wheel' and said the word, 'Cattle market' came up quite a lot.
The report said that women who had decided not to have an abortion – and were less than five and a half weeks pregnant – 'were being called and offered a later appointment'. Inspectors found evidence that this was a policy across all 70 Marie Stopes clinics in the UK.
Marie Stopes denied the claims, saying "It is categorically untrue that any member of our staff receives a performance-related bonus for the number of clients they treat," and "We do not contact clients who have chosen not to proceed with treatment."
However, women have been coming forward to confirm this aggressive pushing of abortion by Marie Stopes staff. Catholic media commentator Caroline Farrow told SPUC that after booking an abortion for 1.30pm, at the Marie Stopes in Whitfield Street in 2003, she called the clinic and asked for counselling, as she was unsure about her decision. They offered her counselling at 1pm the same day. "When I asked them to cancel the appointment for the abortion as I only wanted counselling, they told me it was best to keep it in place because I didn't know what my decision would be and that I might not be able to get another in time as they were very busy & fully booked. I cancelled the whole thing, including counselling, as I felt I might end up being pressurised. They then rang me back, at work, about a week later to check I didn't need another appointment. They rang me at home too."
The Mail also highlighted the report's finding that "parents, partners or friends of women thinking about having an abortion were 'seen as an inconvenience' and 'their presence strongly discouraged.'
The report also included dozens of other serious allegations, including failures in infection control, staff having "to carry an unsealed bucket of pregnancy remains through a patient waiting area," and staff concerns "that some patients are over sedated and anaesthetists are not using an appropriate dose of sedation"
Abortions on children
One of the most concerning findings concerned abortions carried out on children. The reports says: "In the period January – April 2016, across all MSI clinics, 230 children less than 16 years of age were seen but no safeguarding referrals were made. Thirteen children under 16 years of age were treated at the Maidstone clinic." Inspectors raised concerns that staff were obtaining consent from children without proper qualifications, and counselling was often done over the phone, with the counsellor having no way of knowing they were speaking to a child.
Clinic staff also explicitly discouraged parental involvement, the report said. One told inspectors: "The trouble is parents might not react as you think and might be disappointed" and "Parents get upset, we don’t involve them."
The news follows the CQC finding 2600 safety failings in Marie Stopes clinics in December last year, and a follow up report saying that Marie Stopes sent 11 women to hospital in 3 months.