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BPAS welcomes new draft guidance for fertility clinics

  • The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has welcomed new draft guidance for fertility clinics from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)
  • The guidance has been drafted in response to the CMA’s concerns about fertility clinics’ practices, such as a lack of price transparency and misleading claims about success rates, meaning patients may be unable to compare clinics.
  • BPAS will open England’s first not-for-profit fertility service, BPAS Fertility, in 2021, to give patients ineligible for NHS funding an option to access affordable, evidence-based, high-quality care
  • The CMA’s draft guidance, which is currently under consultation, clarifies private clinics’ obligations under UK consumer law when they are treating private patients
  • BPAS particularly welcomed the CMA’s detailed guidance on the selling of “add-on” treatments, many of which are not supported by clinical evidence
  • BPAS also strongly supported the CMA’s recommendations on publishing prices and success rates, which can be misleading and confusing for prospective patients to navigate

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has welcomed new draft guidance published by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which sets out fertility clinics’ obligations when treating private patients. The guidance was drafted in response to the CMA’s concerns about fertility clinics’ practices, such as a lack of price transparency and misleading claims about success rates, meaning patients may be unable to compare clinics.

BPAS intends to open England’s first not-for-profit fertility service in the Autumn of 2021, having provided abortion care for many decades on behalf of the NHS. The national charity states it wants to give patients who are ineligible for NHS fertility treatment due to the postcode lottery an affordable option to access evidence-based, high-quality care.

The charity has supported the CMA’s draft guidance for the sector, highlighting the need for a standardised approach to publishing success rates and prices, so that prospective patients can make meaningful comparisons between clinics. In a survey of self-funded fertility patients conducted by BPAS, they found that only 34% of patients found it easy to compare success rates across clinics, reinforcing the CMA’s concerns that they are not displayed transparently on clinics’ websites. On prices, only 37% of those surveyed said their total price stayed the same as their original quote, with respondents saying “add-on” treatments and hidden costs drove up their total spend.

BPAS particularly welcomed the CMA’s recommendations on the issue of “add-on” treatments, many of which are sold to patients at high financial cost without clinical evidence for their effectiveness. BPAS emphasised the need for patients to be given impartial, evidence-based information about the risks and benefits of any potential treatment, in order to make informed decisions about their care. This includes decisions about treatments such as “assisted hatching” which are sold by clinics as extras, despite the UK’s regulator, the HFEA, stating there is little or no evidence to show they are safe and effective.

The charity has also called for a thorough assessment of clinics’ compliance after the final guidance is published, to include a mystery shopping exercise of events and appointments, to ensure clinics are following the guidance in all their interactions with patients.

In response to the guidance, Marta Jansa Perez, Director of Embryology at BPAS, said:

“Going through fertility treatment can be a vulnerable experience, and even more so for patients funding their own treatment at great personal cost. As a society we are not used to paying for healthcare, and the process can be really complex. All patients deserve to be fully supported through that process by their clinic, and the key to that is transparent information. Having worked in the NHS for many years I know how outstanding that service can be, but I also know there are significant gaps in funding which leave patients no option but to have private treatment. We are really excited to launch our not-for-profit service this year to support those patients on their fertility journey every step of the way.”

ENDS

For further information please contact BPAS on press@bpas.org or 07881 265276.

About BPAS

BPAS is a charity which sees almost 100,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception at clinics across Great Britain. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. BPAS also runs the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication, which seeks to develop and deliver a research agenda that furthers women’s access to evidence-based reproductive healthcare, driven by an understanding of women’s perspectives and needs. You can find out more here: https://www.bpas.org/get-involved/centre-for-reproductive-research-communication/

BPAS will be launching a not-for-profit fertility service in 2021 to provide ethical, evidence-based, person-centred care that supports patients. We intend to only charge what it costs to provide a safe, high-quality, and accessible service to patients who may be unable to access NHS-funded care.