NICE publishes new draft quality standard for antenatal care


London, UK (March 23, 2012) – NICE has today (23 March) published a new draft quality standard for antenatal care. Antenatal care covers all pregnant women (up to 41 weeks of pregnancy) across all settings that routinely provide NHS antenatal care, including primary, community and hospital-based care.


There were around 700,000 live births in England and Wales in 2010i. The majority of these pregnancies and subsequent births were healthy and without complications. However, fetal and neonatal problems such as miscarriage, fetal growth restriction and preterm birth remain common, and stillbirth rates have altered little in the past decade ii. Some women also experience maternal complications such as depression, thromboembolismiii, haemorrhage and sepsisiv.


The new draft quality standard includes ensuring pregnant women are cared for by a small group of healthcare professionals throughout their pregnancy. It also states that pregnant women with a body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or more at the booking appointment are offered personalised advice from an appropriately trained professional on healthy eating and how to be physically active. All pregnant women should also be offered fetal screening such as Down’s syndrome testing and the fetal anomaly ultrasound, in accordance with current UK National Screening Committee programmes. Pregnant women should also be offered balanced and consistent information about breastfeeding which they understand and have the opportunity to discuss.


Dr Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health and Social Care at NICE said: "Pregnancy is an exciting, important time in a woman’s life. However, many women still experience serious problems during this period. We are, therefore, very pleased to be publishing this draft quality standard for antenatal care, which will contribute to improving the effectiveness, safety and experience of care for pregnant women. Registered stakeholders now have the opportunity to submit their comments on the draft quality standard via the NICE website."


The draft quality standard is available on the NICE website from 00:01 on Friday 23 March.


This document is not NICE’s final quality standard on antenatal care. The statements and measures presented in this document are provisional and may change after consultation with stakeholders.



Notes to Editors


References and explanation of terms




About the quality standard


1. The draft quality standard is available on the NICE website from 00:01 on Friday 23 March at:  


2. NICEquality standards (QS) are a set of specific, concise statements and measures that act as markers of high-quality, clinical and cost-effective patient care. They apply nationally in health and social care, and are developed from the very best available evidence, such as NICE guidance or other NHS Evidence-accredited sources. Quality standards are produced with the NHS and social care, along with their partners, service users and carers. They are a pivotal part of the new NHS Outcomes Frameworkv, an overview of aims and objectives in improving patient outcomes in the NHS.


3. There is more information on NICE quality standards at:


4. Quality standard topics are referred to NICE by ministers on the advice of the National Quality Board, a group of representatives from health and social care, committed to improving quality in the NHS and overseeing the reforms aimed at improving care. Further information on the National Quality Board can be found at:


5. NICE clinical guidance are recommendations on the appropriate treatment and care of people with specific diseases and conditions within the NHS in England and Wales. Clinical guidance is based on the best available evidence. Guidance helps healthcare professionals in their work, but does not replace their knowledge and skills.


6. The National Clinical Guideline Centre was commissioned to develop the patient experience in adult NHS services guidance and quality standard. The Centres established a Guidance Development Groups, which reviewed the evidence and developed the recommendations.


7. There is more information about the UK National Screening Committee Programmes at:



Related guidelines




About NICE


1. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is the independent organisation responsible for providing national guidance and standards on the promotion of good health and the prevention and treatment of ill health.


2. NICE produces guidance in three areas of health:

  • public health- guidance on the promotion of good health and the prevention of ill health for those working in the NHS, local authorities and the wider public and voluntary sector
  • health technologies- guidance on the use of new and existing medicines, treatments, medical technologies (including devices and diagnostics) and procedures within the NHS
  • clinical practice- guidance on the appropriate treatment and care of people with specific diseases and conditions within the NHS.


3. NICE produces standards for patient care:

  • Quality standards- these reflect the very best in high quality patient care, to help healthcare practitioners and commissioners of care deliver excellent services
  • Quality and Outcomes Framework – NICE develops the clinical and health improvement indicators in the QOF, the Department of Health scheme which rewards GPs for how well they care for patients.


4. NICE provides advice and support on putting NICE guidance and standards into practice through its implementation programme, and it collates and accredits high quality health guidance, research and information to help health professionals deliver the best patient care through NHS Evidence.


This page was last updated: 22 March 2012



National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), 23.03.2012 (tB).


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