November 27, 2022

Fertility watchdog slated for inaction over poorly run clinics

Not enough unannounced inspections

UK fertility regulator criticised over supervision of IVF clinicsAfter a series of
scandals in the UK fertility industry, an official
review
of the conduct of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology
Authority (HFEA) has highlighted several recent blunders by
clinics. The report stated that the HFEA did not conduct enough
unannounced inspections – most were pre-planned. The report
strongly recommended that the HFEA use the full extent of its powers,
including, where necessary, stripping a clinic of its operating
licence.

In some cases, it
said, “There appears to be a reluctance to utilise the full
spectrum of sanctions for fear of negative impact on availability of
treatment. For example, staff reported to the Review Team a
reluctance to recommend that the licence of a clinic in a remote area
be suspended for fear that patients would have to travel further
afield to receive treatment. ”

The report also
warned that the HFEA had to “remain vigilant” to avoid getting
too cosy with the organisations it regulates. “As with any
regulator there is always a danger that, if left unmonitored, this
relationship could drift and lead stakeholders to question the
regulator’s independence, objectivity and consistency.”

The review was
carried out by the Better Regulation Executive which scrutinises
regulators as part of the Department for Business Innovation and
Skills.

Guy Forster, a
renowned medical negligence lawyer, has represented a number of
couples affected by mix-ups and blunders. As reported in BioEdge
in November
, several batches of donated sperm from one clinic
possessed a severe genetic abnormality. Forster told the Independent
that he had “been concerned with the quality of inspections
and how rigorous they are. Inspections are there to root out
problems, and they are just not doing that.” He said that if a
“much firmer line” was taken with clinics where there have
been issues, “other clinics would be much more likely to pay
attention to the importance of risk management.” ~ Independent
(UK) Dec 6
; London
Telegraph Dec 7
; HFEA
Hampton Review Report
 

Jared Yee
HFEA
IVF