It’s a small bit of advice, but actually on the day, made such a difference…: perceptions of quality in abortion care in England and Wales

Katherine C. Whitehouse, Rebecca Blaylock, Shelly Makleff, Patricia A. Lohr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Quality of care (QOC) is increasingly identified as an important contributor to healthcare outcomes, however little agreement exists on what constitutes quality in abortion care or the recommended indicators from the service-user perspective. Our study aimed to explore perceptions and experiences of abortion QOC in England and Wales. Methods: We performed in-depth interviews (via phone or in-person) with participants who had an abortion at a nationwide independent sector provider in the previous 6 months. We explored their experiences of the abortion service at each point in the care pathway, their perspectives on what contributed to and detracted from the experience meeting their definitions of quality, and their reflections on different aspects of QOC. We used content analysis to generate themes. Results: From December 2018 to July 2019, we conducted 24 interviews. Ten participants had a surgical and 14 had a medical abortion. Seventeen (71%) were treated in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and 7 (29%) beyond that, with an average gestational age of 10 weeks + 5 days (range 5–23 + 6). We identified 4 major themes that contributed to participant’s perception of high quality care: (1) interpersonal interactions with staff or other patients, (2) being informed and prepared, (3) participation and choices in care and (4) accessibility. Nearly all participants identified interpersonal interactions with staff as an important contributor to quality with positive interactions often cited as the best part of their abortion experience and negative interactions as the worst. For information and preparation, participant described not only the importance of being well prepared, but how incongruencies between information and the actual experience detracted from quality. Participants said that making choices about their care, for example, method of abortion, was a positive contributor. Finally, participants identified access to care, specifically in relation to waiting times and travel, as an important aspect of QOC. Conclusions: Participants situated quality in abortion care in 4 domains: interpersonal aspects of care, information and preparation, choices, and accessibility. Indicators identified can be used to develop standard metrics to ensure care meets service-user needs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number221
Number of pages9
JournalReproductive Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2021


  • Abortion
  • Health services research
  • Qualitative research
  • Quality improvement
  • Quality of care
  • Termination of pregnancy

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