22 November 2020

The BFS welcomes the draft guidance developed by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA). This is a wide-ranging document that requires detailed understanding by our members, and we are hopeful that the final guidance will prove useful in improving the quality of care given to patients undergoing assisted conception treatment.

An increasing number of patients are treated by UK clinics each year, and the majority have a good experience, even if their treatment does not result in a baby. We note that the research commissioned by the CMA found patients to be empowered and able to seek information from a range of sources. The majority of patients felt that the costs of their treatment were transparent and in line with expectations. However, the research identified potential issues in some situations, and shows that there is room for improvement in how clinics discharge their duties under consumer protection law.

The CMA’s research is in keeping with the experience of clinicians nationally, who find that so-called add-ons continue to be requested by patients who are keen to leave no stone unturned in their efforts to have a baby. We believe that accurate patient information based on good-quality evidence is essential to empower patients in making the best decision for their care.

As a professional body, we are involved in supporting research studies and in disseminating the evidence concerning add-ons among those who work in our field. We support the responsible use of additional treatment where clinically relevant in standard assisted conception but not where the decision is based on patient purchasing power.

The BFS is not planning to do a detailed response to the CMA guidance. However, we strongly encourage our members to engage with the guidance and take the opportunity to participate in the ongoing consultation, which closes on 5th January 2021. This is accessible at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/draft-guidance-for-fertility-clinics-on-consumer-law