March 16th 2022
NICE has today (Wednesday 16th March) published a revised Quality Standard on the diagnosis and assessment of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The draft version of this document provoked outcry when it was published in September 2020 due to proposals to automatically transfer any and all alcohol consumption reported by a pregnant woman to her child’s medical record. Following the significant backlash, these measures have been removed from the final Quality Standard.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, strongly opposed the plans which would have infringed on a woman’s right to privacy and denied pregnant women the ability to have a frank and confidential conversation with her midwife about alcohol. The charity also warned that these measures would do nothing to help either the pregnant woman or the child she goes on to have.
Clare Murphy, Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, said:
“We welcome the decision by NICE to drop proposals to automatically transfer any alcohol consumption reported by a pregnant woman to her child’s medical records. It is absolutely staggering that these measures, which had no basis in evidence and would have amounted to an extraordinary infringement on women’s right to privacy, were ever suggested by NICE in the first place.
“The vast majority of women do not consume alcohol once pregnancy is confirmed or consume at levels not associated with harm. While we are pleased to see that the recommendation regarding the transferral of data from a woman’s medical records on to those of her child has been dropped, we remain concerned about the routine questioning of women throughout pregnancy on this issue. Our research shows women find antenatal discussions about alcohol – even when they don’t drink at all – can supersede other issues important to them, like their own mental health and wellbeing. Those supporting pregnant women must be able to provide care that meets the needs of the individual before them, not just to fill in boxes on a checklist.”
Embargoed copies of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Quality Standard are available from the NICE press office and will be available when published on the NICE website here.
For further information, please contact Katherine O’Brien, BPAS Associate Director of Campaigns and Communications, on katherine.o’firstname.lastname@example.org or 07881 265276.
BPAS is a charity that sees over 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/
In 2021, BPAS launched BPAS Fertility, England’s first not-for-profit fertility service, to provide ethical, evidence-based, person-centred care that supports patients. We provide a safe, high-quality, and accessible service, without profiteering from patients. Our service gives those ineligible for NHS funding an affordable option to access the care they need.