Almost 400 early medical abortions have been carried out in GP surgeries in the year since the first GP practice was licensed to offer the service, Pulse has learned.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service estimates 'close to' 400 early medical abortions were carried out at two GP surgeries between August 2008 and July 2009.

BPAS has run clinics providing termination services for women less than nine weeks pregnant at a medical practice in Wolverhampton since summer 2008 and another in Newcastle since April 2009.

The Care Quality Commission is currently considering a further application to host a service at a practice in Basingstoke. GP abortion services are being considered by several other PCTs, and a Department of Health consultation on their provision is ongoing.

Anti-abortion campaigners have argued offering abortions in primary care would lead to a surge in demand for procedures.

But Dr Peter Ilves, a GP in Roehampton, south-west London, and a commissioner for NHS Wandsworth, said: 'It's not true that because you have the availability you have more abortions. It will give an increased opportunity to women who find there are barriers to getting an abortion.'

BPAS said in a statement: 'Since opening early medical abortion services sited within two GP surgery premises in England in August 2008 and April 2009, close to 400 women have been treated in these settings as of July 2009.'

Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, said: 'Women's take-up of BPAS' early medical abortion service provided within a local GP surgery has been encouraging. Women tell us they really appreciate being able to access services close to home.

'It's important to remember providing this early abortion service is not simply a question of offering women medication, but requires a whole framework of round-the-clock expert support and care. It remains to be seen how many GPs will wish to provide this service, should that become an option.'

Richard Hoey, editor of Pulse, said: 'Providing abortion at a practice will never be for every GP, because of the degree of workload involved and also for some because of their personal views. But there are problems with access to abortion in some areas that can cause distressing delays for women, and many GPs do feel that a service based at practices could be part of the solution to that.'