RCM supports calls for better reproductive and sexual health services in Northern Ireland

on 01 April 2021 Midwives Abortion Reproductive Choices Reproductive Health Northern Ireland Director For Northern Ireland RCM Northern Ireland

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has called for more investment in reproductive and sexual health services in Northern Ireland on the back of a new report published today. The report comes one year after abortion regulations came into effect in Northern Ireland.

Healthcare professionals and organisations including the RCM have come together under the banner of the Northern Ireland Abortion and Contraception Taskgroup (NIACT) to produce the report. It offers what the report authors describe as a ‘new vision’ for how healthcare and education providers can better support services and education is this area.

The RCM’s Director for Northern Ireland Karen Murray is a key figure in the NIACT and has supported the development of the report. “The changes to abortion regulations in Northern Ireland that came in a year ago were a milestone for women’s rights. However, there is still much to do to put women’s needs front and centre and reverse the chronic and long-standing under investment in reproductive and sexual health,” she said.  “We must integrate all the elements that feed into this including how we educate our young people in schools on this issue. This is also not just about sexual and reproductive health: poor care and services in these areas has a direct impact on the overall health of women,” she added.

The report called ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health in Northern Ireland’ gives 38 recommendations on how the Northern Ireland Executive can improve health services and the education of young people on these topics. The NIACT urges the Executive to commission and fund these services without delay.

“Children and young people need to be given the knowledge and skills they need to manage their sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing across the life course. This must begin with high quality relationships and sex education in our schools, and it must include an NHS that is funded to provide the sexual and reproductive healthcare services they need,” said NIACT Chair Dr Ralph Roberts. “Our report provides a number of recommendations which, if followed, would finally deliver high-quality services and meet our legal obligations.”

A call is also made to improve abortion care, with the report saying that when abortion is needed, NHS services should be accessible, high quality and deliver safe and compassionate care.

The report is also supported by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) who said that the delay in funding and commissioning abortion care services for the country’s women cannot continue. “This report clearly demonstrates the value of providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services to women and importantly provides the solutions for how to make this a reality. There can be no more excuses for dither and delay,” said RCOG President, Dr Edward Morris.

“There is a strong need for change, for more resources and for new thinking on this, all of which this report addresses.” Said Karen Murray. “I urge the Northern Ireland Assembly to read this report, act on it, and deliver a sexual and reproductive health strategy fit for the 21st century, and fit for the needs of women today and into the future.” 

The full report can be read at https://www.fsrh.org/documents/niact-full-report-31st-march-2021/.