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Abortion scandal: Health secretary's blitz on clinics may have cost £1m

Dame Jo Williams, the chair of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the body which regulates healthcare provision in the UK, has launched a stinging attack on the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley for diverting resources away from front-line services after he ordered a comprehensive audit of abortion clinics in the UK.

The move came after the Telegraph exposed malpractice by a number of abortion clinics, who were offering women the chance to have an abortion, purely because the sex of the child was not what they were hoping for.

The Health Secretary responded by ordering the CQC to conduct unannounced inspections of more than 300 clinics in England and Wales, a move which Dame Jo Williams said impacted on the planned regulatory activity of the CQC, and is estimated to have cost around £1m.

In a letter to the Health Secretary, Dame Williams wrote: "580 inspections [were] foregone and a total of 16 inspectors being utilised on a full-year basis was at an estimated cost of £1m."

The letter raises questions as to whether precious time and money was wasted on an essentially political scheme to placate angry politicians in the Conservative party.

Mr Lansley has hit back, however, suggesting that he had a duty to act as there was evidence that the law was being systematically broken in a number of clinics around the country. He said that the CQC did not object to the proposed additional inspections, and in fact agreed that they were the right response to the alleged malpractice.

The Department of Health issued a statement saying: "The CQC's statutory duty is to uphold the law. The CQC was one of the organisations who warned us of this issue at the time, and agreed with us that a programme of inspections should take place as a proportionate response to the serious allegations being made."

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Guardian)

What is the law on abortion? (FindLaw)