As part of the Government’s ongoing efforts to protect public health and limit the spread of Covid-19, the Department of Health and the HSE worked together in 2020 to put arrangements in place to allow termination of pregnancy services in early pregnancy to be provided remotely. For the duration of the Covid-19 public health emergency, where the need for social distancing, reducing personal contacts and reducing the burden on medical practitioners are paramount, it became possible for a woman to access a termination under section 12 of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 (i.e., before 12 weeks) from her medical practitioner by telephone or video conference consultation.
There is ongoing engagement between the Department of Health and the HSE to monitor service provision, facilitate the smooth-running of the service and resolve any issues that may arise. However, with restrictions eased, the Department is currently reviewing whether remote consultation as part of a blended approach to termination of pregnancy care should be continued post the COVID-19 public health emergency period. A decision is expected in the coming weeks. It is important to reflect that COVID-19 is still with us and Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) guidance on Managing Risk of Transmission of Respiratory Viruses including COVID-19, continues to advise, amongst other things, to limit footfall in General Practice settings and support telephone consultations where care that meets the needs of the patient can be delivered - this helps to eliminate the risk of transmission of viral infection. As such the arrangements for remote access to this service in the context of COVID-19 remain in place.