The Department of Health has asked all medical practitioners who carried out terminations of pregnancy last year to review their records and paperwork “as a matter of priority”.
The request follows a report published by the department that shows that 4,577 terminations were carried out last year – around 2,000 lower than the 2020 figure.
The figures are contained in the third annual report on the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018.
The legislation was introduced after a referendum in May 2018 that approved the repeal of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.
Claims for reimbursement
The department said that it had talks with the HSE and GP representatives after becoming aware of the decrease in the figures contained in the report.
HSE figures later showed that around 6,700 claims linked to terminations for reimbursement under the Primary Care Reimbursement Scheme (PCRS) were made last year.
As terminations are provided free of charge, GPs are reimbursed via the PCRS for the consultations undertaken with patients in respect of terminations.
“Following these engagements, it is reasonable to conclude, based on the information available, that the number of terminations of pregnancy notified to the minister is substantially lower than the number of terminations carried out in 2021,” the department said.
Bigger drop from May
It acknowledged that 2021 was “an enormously challenging year” for the healthcare services, due to COVID-19 waves, the roll-out of vaccines, and the impact of a cyber-attack on the HSE.
The department said that the cyber-attack seemed to have had an impact on the figures, as notifications dropped “considerably” in the months from May to August.
The report shows that 4,513 of the procedures in 2020 were carried out in early pregnancy, under the grounds set out in section 12 of the legislation. This allows a termination if the pregnancy concerned has not exceeded 12 weeks.
Of the remaining procedures, nine were due to a risk to the life or health of the pregnant woman under section 9; two were due to a risk to life or health in an emergency situation under section 10; and 53 were due to a fatal foetal anomaly.
A separate HSE report shows that one application for a review was made to it last year. The application was found to have met the requirements for a lawful termination of pregnancy.
A review of the 2018 act, chaired by barrister Marie O’Shea, is currently being carried out.