Research Title: Abortion Protests and Vigils

IRAS ID: 320854

Invitation and brief summary:  We are researching patient’s experiences of accessing abortion services in NHS clinics while a protest and vigil occurred outside. There are two ways you can participate in the research:

  1. There is a survey to complete, this asks you questions about whether you witnessed or were aware of any protests or vigils at the time of your appointment, and the impact of these. The survey can be completed anonymously and you do not have to give your name or other identifiable details.
  2. We would also like to speak to people who have witnessed protests and/or vigils to understand if they affected you and your experiences of the service. If you would be willing to talk to a member of the research team you will need to provide the research team with a name (it does not have to be your real name) and a way to contact you. In recognition of people’s time we are offering a £40 gift voucher as compensation for talking to us. You can provide us your details in a number of ways including:
  3. Emailing
  4. Leaving your details at the end of the survey
  5. Scanning the QR code on the leaflet or poster

As part of this research we are also intending to collect data in relation to missed and cancelled appointments to see if there is any impact of protests or vigils on attendance in comparison to days when there is no activity outside of clinics.

In parallel to this Rocket Science are also conducting research with protest and vigil groups to understand their motivations for this activity, the aims of vigils and protests and what those involved see as key to achieving these aims. This is being conducted by a separate research team but the findings of this will be reported alongside our research with patients and staff.

What’s involved? 

  • Both the survey and interview will ask you questions (and record your answers) about your experience of accessing the clinic when a protest or vigil was taking place. This will include if and how the activity affected you and made you feel at the time.
  • If you decide to complete the survey you will be asked a series of questions in an online survey. The survey will take no more than 10 minutes to complete and you do not have to give any personal details that might identify you.
  • If you decide to take part in an interview with a fully trained member of our team, we will contact you to arrange an interview using the contact details you leave us. This can be conducted by phone. The interviewer will take detailed notes of the conversation which will be stored using a unique number and will not contain any information from which you could be identified.
  • You will be welcome to have someone with you to support you during the interview if you wish to do so.
  • The timing and duration of the interview will be up to you to decide. You may find it easier to do the interview in stages over the course of a few days or weeks, or one longer interview – that is up to you. We estimate that an interview will take approximately one hour.
  • All interviews will be anonymised. This is to ensure that interviews cannot be traced back to individuals through Rocket Science’s reporting. 
  • You will be offered a £40 electronic gift voucher in compensation for your time. If you wish to receive this we will need an email address to send it to.
  • We can send you the interview topic guide in advance of the interview if you wish.

Explanation: The Scottish Government has commissioned this research to ensure that people accessing abortion services from an NHS clinic on a day when a vigil and protest is taking place have the chance to share their experiences if they so wish.  This is to help improve the Scottish Government’s knowledge of the short, medium, and long term impact that protest and/or vigils have on people accessing abortion services in Scotland. We are hoping to include up to 45 people in the research. The interview will take about one hour. You can decide if you’d like to do it all at once, or over a few sessions. 

This research has been approved by the NHS Health Research Authority’s Research Ethics Committee. 

What we will do with your data – The answers you give us during the survey and/or interview will be analysed alongside the responses from other people who have accessed services when protests or vigils have taken place. We will analyse these for themes that occur across the responses to understand what similarities and differences exist in people’s experience of accessing clinics during these times. 

We will not process the name and contact details data you give us in anyway.

What are the possible benefits of taking part? By participating in the research, you contribute to the Scottish Governments understanding of whether protests or vigils have any effect upon those accessing abortion services and whether further policy in this area may be needed. 

What are the possible disadvantages and risks of taking part? Taking part is completely voluntary. Your decision to take part, or not, will not affect your care in any way. Deciding to take part involves the risk of revisiting experiences which may be traumatic or upsetting. We are ensuring that our approach to interviews is sensitive and that you feel you have choice and control in what questions you answer, if any and how to take part in the interview If during the interview, you find the experience too upsetting we will stop the interview, rearrange if you wish and ensure that information to relevant support services is provided. 

Do I have to take part? No, you do not have to take part in this research. Participating in the research will have no impact upon the medical care you receive, and clinic staff will not be aware of whether you take part or not.

How will we use information about you?

We will need to use information from you for this research project. 

This information will include your name and contact details, if you provide these for interview, which will be held by Rocket Science for the research.  People will use this information to do the research only and processing and storing of data will be in accordance with the UK Data Protection Act 2018.

People who do not need to know who you are will not be able to see your name or contact details. Your data will have a code number instead. 

We will keep all information about you safe and secure. 

Once we have finished the study, we will keep some of the data so we can check the results. We will write our reports in a way that no-one can work out that you took part in the study.

What are your choices about how your information is used?

  • You can stop being part of the study at any time, without giving a reason. Where possible we will delete the information we have. You should be aware though that if you complete the survey and do not provide a name or contact details, this may not be possible.
  • We need to manage your records in specific ways for the research to be reliable. This means that we won’t be able to let you see or change the data we hold about you. 

Where can you find out more about how your information is used?

You can find out more about how we use your information 

Further supporting information

What if something goes wrong? – All our interviewers are trained to deal with difficult and potentially upsetting topics in a way that is appropriate. We will be able to signpost you or, with your permission, refer you to services that can support you. You have choice and control over which, if any, questions you answer and you can stop or pause the interview at any time.  If you have any complaints about the interview or the research you can contact

Insurance Arrangements: Rocket Science possess public liability insurance with an indemnity limit of £10million and professional indemnity coverage to £5million in the unlikely event that something should go wrong.

What will happen if I don’t want to carry on with the research? If you do not want to continue in the research – just tell us as soon as possible and we will withdraw your data from the research. We can do this up until the report goes for publication. We will advise you of this date. If you decide to withdraw from the research once the report has been published we will unfortunately not be able to remove your data at that point.

What will happen to the results of this research? We will write up findings from the research into a report that will be sent directly to the Scottish Government. Any personal data will be destroyed after 28 days after the report is published

Who is organising and funding this research? The Scottish Government is funding the research and it is being organised and managed by Rocket Science, an independent research organisation. 

How have patients and the public been involved in this research? Due to the sensitive nature of the research, we have not involved any patients or the public in the design of the research. 

Who has reviewed this research? The Scottish Government has reviewed this proposed research methodology and undertaken its own ethics process.  The Research Advisory Group which is being established will provide continued oversight and guidance through the research.

How to take part: At your appointment a member of the clinical staff will provide you with information about the research. If you would like to participate then please contact Katie at or call 0131 2264949 and she will organise a convenient time and way to talk to you.

Further information and contact details: If you have any further questions, please contact James Ward

If you would like to talk to someone within NHS Lothian about the research please contact

If you would like to talk to someone in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde about the research please contact


The NHS Lothian Patient Experience Team is responsible for addressing any compliments, concerns or complaints. If you wish to make a complaint about the study please contact:

Patient Experience Team

2 – 4 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3EG

0131 536 3370