One of the country’s largest abortion providers has been accused of paying bonuses to staff who encourage women to have the prodecures.
The allegations centre on Marie Stopes International and have come to light in a damning report by the official watchdog, the Care Quality Commission.
According to the report, staff felt ‘encouraged’ to ensure women went through with abortions because it was ‘linked to their performance bonus’.
Inspectors found evidence of a policy – in place across all 70 Marie Stopes clinics in the country – whereby staff were told to call women who had decided not to have an abortion, and offer them a new appointment.
According to the report, staff felt ‘encouraged’ to ensure women went through with abortions because it was ‘linked to their performance bonus’
They also uncovered a document referring to a ‘company-wide focus’ on women who weren’t going ahead with abortions, who were referred to as ‘Did Not Proceed’ patients.
Critics last night blasted the ‘conveyor-belt culture pervading the industry’.
Conservative MP Fiona Bruce said: ‘It is shocking to hear that, at what is often such a difficult and stressful moment, abortion clinics are taking advantage of pregnant women by seeking to do as many abortions as they can, rather than seeking to give genuine, non-directional counselling and advice.
‘This completely undermines the legitimacy of these publicly funded organisations, and must be investigated.’
The watchdog’s accusations are made in a report into the Marie Stopes centre in Maidstone, Kent. Staff told CQC inspectors the clinic was like a ‘cattle market’ and described a ‘very target-driven culture’.
Parents, partners or friends of women thinking about having an abortion were ‘seen as an inconvenience’ and ‘their presence strongly discouraged’, the report said.
Inspectors were also worried that girls below the age of 16 were agreeing to have abortions without being made fully aware of the risks and consequences.
Marie Stopes is the UK’s second largest abortion provider and sees 70,000 patients a year for abortions and other sexual health services. The company said it was ‘categorically untrue’ that staff bonuses were linked to the number of women who went ahead with abortions.
But last year the CQC uncovered major safety flaws across its clinics and ordered the provider to temporarily suspend some terminations. Doctors were found to be signing up to 60 consent forms at once with no knowledge of the women involved.
An investigation by the Mail later exposed how doctors were signing off abortions with a single phone call – again for women they had never met. Under the 1967 Abortion Act, doctors must be able to show they have formed their opinion ‘in good faith’ that the legal grounds for termination have been met.
The CQC inspected the Maidstone centre in May 2016, but didn’t publish its findings until this month. The CQC said an earlier draft report had been published in error and it needed to ensure this latest version was fair and accurate.
The watchdog’s accusations are made in a report into the Marie Stopes centre in Maidstone, Kent (pictured)
The report is more damning than any previous inspection. It states: ‘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.’
Inspectors also uncovered minutes of a meeting in July 2015 which referred to a ‘company-wide focus on DNPs’ – Did Not Proceed women who hadn’t gone ahead with abortions.
The report said 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’.
The CQC later confirmed that it believed this to be a ‘generic policy’ across all Marie Stopes clinics. Clara Campbell, from the charity Life, said: ‘This exposes the true income-seeking nature of the abortion industry.
‘A conveyer-belt culture has pervaded the industry for many years and Marie Stopes International is a good example of this.
‘The abortion industry likes to parrot a narrative of looking after the interests of women but when it ends up placing their health and safety at risk in the pursuit of money, it becomes incumbent on the Government to act to protect women.’
The watchdog said it had visited the Maidstone clinic since that inspection and found some improvements, but it could not confirm whether the bonus scheme was in existence.
Marie Stopes said: ‘The number of our clients who choose not to go ahead with treatment is not a KPI (key performance indicator) for our staff, and never has been. It is categorically untrue that any member of our staff receives a performance-related bonus for the number of clients they treat.
‘We follow a stringent consent process for all of our clients, and we will not proceed with a procedure if we have any doubt at all that a woman is unsure of her decision. We do not contact clients who have chosen not to proceed with treatment.
‘Friends and family are absolutely welcome to accompany clients at their appointment for additional support.’