‘Scottish abortion services can handle NI patients’

Aileen Campbell MSP
for Lanark
Aileen Campbell MSP for Lanark

Abortion services will be able to treat women from Northern Ireland without a detrimental impact on patients in Scotland, MSPs have been told.

Public health minister Aileen Campbell said she was confident services had the capacity to cope with a change that will allow Scottish NHS boards to offer free abortion services to Northern Irish women.

The Scottish Government estimates that between 20 and 150 women will travel to Scotland each year from Northern Ireland to access abortion services, at a cost of between £17,000 and £98,000.

The UK Government has also said Northern Irish women will no longer have to pay to have NHS abortions in England.

Ms Campbell told Holyrood’s Health Committee: “In a similar manner to the UK Government, we believe abortion should be available as part of a standard healthcare service for all women.

“Women in Northern Ireland who need abortion services face considerable challenges in accessing them.

“It is right that Scotland plays its part in providing clinically-safe and legal care for women who have made this decision.

“The cost of the policy, we believe, will depend on the number of women who choose to travel to Scotland and we’ve set that out as being estimated as between £17,000 and £98,000, around that £100,000 mark.

“It’s important also to recognise that the Scottish Government will receive consequentials as part of the new spend required to fund the equivalent policy in England that was announced by the UK Government and that will be used to fund the services here in Scotland.

“In terms of capacity, we’re confident that Scottish abortion services will be able to treat women from Northern Ireland without having a detrimental impact on the service to women in Scotland and, of course, that will require continual monitoring, and that’s something we will endeavour to do.”

Ms Campbell was responding to questioning from Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour, who had lodged a motion to annul the order needed to bring about the change, but withdrew it after receiving assurances from the minister.