Women who have an abortion will be provided with more dignity after a decision to allow them to take the second of two termination pills at home.
The move, which has been welcomed by campaigners, will improve the experience of more than 100,000 women in England who have early abortions each year.
It follows moves by Scotland and Wales to allow women to take the second pill in the comfort of their own homes.
Under the current system in England, women have to take both pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, 24-48 hours apart in a clinic to end a pregnancy before 10 weeks’ gestation. The two visits can be difficult to organise and lead to discomfort and trauma, with some women starting to miscarry before they reach home.
The Government said it will legalise home-use by the end of the year.
Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said: “This simple and practical measure will provide women with significantly more choice and is the most compassionate care we can give them.
“It will allow women to avoid distress and embarrassment of bleeding and pain during their journey home from an unnecessary second visit to a clinic or hospital.”
Under the new rules women will be required to attend a clinic for the administration of mifepristone, the first medication.
They will then have the option of being discharged home to self-administer the second medication, misoprostol, but can still attend a clinic if they prefer.
Wales announced the move in June after the change in practice was made in Scotland last year, following advice from clinicians and campaigners.
Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), said: “We are delighted by this decision, which represents an outbreak of common sense. BPAS has long campaigned for this simple, evidence-based measure, which is standard practice across the world and endorsed by the World Health Organisation.
“Enabling women to use this medication at home rather than being forced to take it in a clinic means women will no longer risk pain and bleeding as they travel home after taking it, and means they can use it at the time that is right for them, when they are safe and comfortable in the privacy of their own homes.”
The Department of Health and Social care said clinical guidance will be drawn up which health professionals will be expected to follow when providing the treatment option to patients.
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: “Abortion can be a difficult experience so it is important that women feel safe and as comfortable as possible. This decision will increase choice for women and help ensure they receive safe and dignified care.”