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Chamber and committees

Public Petitions Committee

Meeting date: Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Agenda: Decision on Taking Business in Private, New Petition, Current Petition, New Petition, Current Petition, New Petition, Current Petitions


Current Petition

Miscarriage (Causes) (PE1443)

The Convener

With the committee’s approval, I will now go to the second current petition because the petitioners who were due to give evidence have been delayed in traffic. I have been advised that they will be here shortly.

The second current petition is PE1443, by Maureen Sharkey, on behalf of Scottish Care and Information on Miscarriage, on investigating the causes of miscarriages. Members have a note by the clerk and submissions. I think that Maureen Sharkey was in the Parliament recently—she had one of the information stalls. It was certainly a very good petition.

The petitioner, as you know, believes that the current guidelines do not allow women to be responded to and urges the Scottish Government to change its policy. However, I think that the Scottish Government has made it quite clear that it supports the current royal college guidelines, and the organisations do not support investigation of the offer of testing for women following a single miscarriage for the reasons that are set out in the responses.

Unfortunately, I cannot personally see any other way forward for this petition, although I put on record my thanks to Maureen Sharkey and her colleagues for her excellent petition. At the end of the day, we can deal only with the material that we have and everybody we have written to has had a very clear view on the matter. Obviously, I welcome any other views from members. I can see no way forward other than to close the petition under rule 15.7. However, as always, I will defer to members’ views and expertise in relation to the issue.

John Wilson

I am not minded to close the petition today, on the basis of the response from the Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland. The RCGP Scotland was asked how it ensures that

“there is an emphasis on patient centred care”.

The RCGP stated in its letter of 4 October that patients’

“response to miscarriage varies hugely.”

We know that. The issue is that it then goes on to refer to

“The scientific guidelines endorsed by our colleagues at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists”.

An individual’s needs at a time of a trauma need to be assessed on the basis of how the individual reacts to that trauma. To my mind, the answer from the RCGP does not mean that it is endorsing patient-centred care. Basically, it is doing a scientific analysis of whether testing should be carried out.

The evidence that we have received from the petition is that an individual can go through up to three miscarriages before they are allowed to be tested under the present guidelines. We need to go back to the basic principle of patient-centred care. When a patient has suffered a miscarriage, it should be their right to request that tests be carried out to get to the root cause of the problem and to find out whether there might be any issues in their medical future that could lead to further miscarriages.

I therefore suggest that we write to the Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland and to the Scottish Government to seek assurance and clarification of the definition of patient-centred care, and to find out whether a patient would have the right to demand that appropriate tests be done prior to them suffering either a second or a third miscarriage, if those circumstances were to arise.

My recommendation is that we write to the Scottish Government and to the RCGP to seek that guidance.

Anne McTaggart

I agree fully with what my colleague John Wilson has just said. I thank Scottish Care and Information on Miscarriage for its outstanding executive summary. Miscarriage affects 5,708 women in Scotland each year. It scares me to think that only 50 per cent of hospitals have specialised early pregnancy units; that is a worrying statistic.

I do not think that we have finished with this petition. I would like to ask whether the Scottish Government is satisfied with those statistics. We have heard from other authorities that do not agree with what the petition requests, but I still want to go back to the Scottish Government.

Chic Brodie

I think that I understand the position as it was put to us so eloquently by my colleague Mr Wilson. We wrote to the RCGP in June, and at our September meeting we agreed to write to the RCGP again. In its response, it suggests that there is a problem with numbers, but on the basis of the fact that women who experience complications in early pregnancy are given access to an early pregnancy assessment service with care in dedicated areas, I am not sure how much further we can take the petition and what additional answers we can expect.

Angus MacDonald

I take on board the points that John Wilson and Anne McTaggart have made, but when I looked at the paperwork for the petition, I was minded to agree to close it under rule 15.7. However, given that some committee members still have concerns and want to seek further information, I am happy to agree to that.

I am happy to agree to the committee seeking further information.

Following John Wilson’s eloquent comments, I do not think that I have any choice other than to support pursuing the petition by writing to the Scottish Government and the RCGP.

Anne McTaggart

With regard to Chic Brodie’s point, we have written to a few organisations and they have given evidence that they believe that the situation is okay. However, I am not sure that they are doing what it says on the tin if they believe that. Only 50 per cent of hospitals have early pregnancy units, and I do not think that that is adequate.

The Convener

The committee has agreed to continue the petition and write to the two organisations that John Wilson mentioned. We will keep the petitioner involved with future developments.

11:29 Meeting suspended.

11:31 On resuming—