Abortion notifications and data - changing the process: consultation

Closed 30 Apr 2021

Opened 1 Mar 2021

Feedback updated 31 Jan 2022

We asked

The Abortion (Scotland) Regulations 1991 set out requirements which must be met in relation to notifications of abortion made to the CMO.  The Regulations require that notifications must be completed on a paper form (commonly referred to as the ‘yellow form’) and sent by post or delivered in a sealed envelope to the CMO within seven days of the termination. The required information to be provided on the yellow form is set out in the Regulations and requires certain information to be provided about the abortion carried out. The CMO’s office then deliver the notification forms to Public Health Scotland (PHS), which uses the information in the form to prepare the abortion statistics.

The consultation proposed that the Regulations should be amended to enable the notification of an abortion to be sent electronically in future and sought views on the timeframe within which notifications must be made. The consultation also proposed changes to the content of the notification itself. The proposals would mean that providers would in future only provide a simple notification confirming that an abortion had been carried out to the CMO and so would no longer need to submit the yellow notification forms. Further details of the abortion would be submitted directly to PHS via secure electronic means, to allow it to produce abortion statistics.

You said

35 responses were submitted to the consultation, including fifteen from organisations. Overall, responses to the consultation were in favour of the proposed changes, with the greatest support for enabling electronic submission of notifications (91%), followed by permitting a period longer than seven days in which to do so (79% of those who answered the question) and enabling data to be provided directly to PHS (73% of those who answered the question).  There was more of a split in relation to perceived impacts on privacy of personal data about patients and staff, with 45% suggesting that there would be an impact and 34% suggesting there would not.

Comments in support of the specific proposals mainly focused on the benefits in terms of streamlining processes, providing increased flexibility and increased data privacy.  The future data requirements was a key area of focus for those who caveated their support for the proposals, including the need to ensure transparency about data requirements and the opportunities for increased/improved data collection.  Responses also focused on the practicalities of moving from one system to another and the need to ensure synchronisation and no data loss as a result.

We did

An analysis of the responses to the consultation has been published on the Scottish Government website and can be viewed here:  https://www.gov.scot/ISBN/9781802010749. Where consent to publish has been provided, the consultation responses are now available to view online.

The responses to the consultation have helped to inform the development of Regulations to amend the Abortion (Scotland) Regulations 1991.  In addition to the consultation a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) was completed which considered the benefits and risks of the proposed changes. The BRIA included the responses from the consultation, along with an evaluation of how the proposed changes could impact on businesses and the reporting of data. The BRIA concluded that whilst moving to a more streamlined electronic process may still pose a very small risk in terms of information being received or viewed accidently by a third party or the CMO, that this would be significantly reduced compared with manual reporting of data. The BRIA can be viewed here: Abortion (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 – proposed changes: business and regulatory impact assessment - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Based on the favourable results from the consultation and BRIA, the Abortion (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 were laid before the Scottish Parliament on 9 December 2021, and will come into force on 1 May 2022.

Full details of the amended Regulations can be viewed here:The Abortion (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 (legislation.gov.uk)

Results updated 9 Jul 2021


Published responses

View submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response.


The consultation proposes changes to allow the statutory notifications of abortions in Scotland to be sent to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) electronically in future. It also proposes to remove the current requirement to submit information about each abortion with each notification (the yellow forms). Instead the Scottish Government proposes in future that abortion providers should submit data on abortions directly to Public Health Scotland (rather than via the CMO) to enable the abortion statistics to be compiled.

Why your views matter

The Scottish Government wishes to gather views from those affected, particularly abortion providers and Public Health Scotland, to ensure that any changes are workable in practice and to make sure any changes ensure personal data is sufficiently protected. While it is a legal requirement to notify the Chief Medical Officer of all of abortions in Scotland, the Scottish Government will use feedback from this consultation to work with Public Health Scotland to identify the best options for submission of notifications and abortion data in future.

Read the consultation paper. 

What happens next

The Scottish Government will analyse the responses to this consultation. Subject to the views expressed, we expect to bring forward amendments to the Abortion (Scotland) Regulations 1991 for the Scottish Parliament's consideration in autumn 2021.


  • Health and Social Care