Ministers are considering allowing family doctors to conduct abortions, it has been revealed.
Trials are currently underway to assess the safety and effectiveness of early abortions in "non-traditional settings" and, if successful, the government could authorise GPs to carry out early medical abortions from next year.
The scheme follows a recommendation from MPs that the rules surrounding access to abortion should be relaxed.
The Department of Health (DoH) confirmed two trials are already underway in unspecificed hospital-based settings.
It is intended to allow women in the early stages of pregnancy more efficient access to medical abortions. The pilot trials will determine whether this is effective and safe.
A DoH spokesperson confirmed: "We are formally evaluating the safety and effectiveness of providing early medical abortion services in non-traditional settings, which in future, could be a community medical setting such as a doctor's surgery which has the appropriate medical expertise.
"The evaluation will be complete in the new year and we will consider the results carefully before reaching a decision."
The DoH maintains it has not yet made any decision on whether to set up abortion services in GP practices.
Under present regulations, abortions can only be conducted at NHS hospitals and specialist clinics and with two doctors' approval.
In October, the Commons science and technology committee said it could see no reason why women should need the approval of two doctors.
The committee also said nurses could be authorised to carry out early medical abortions.