February 23, 2024

UK fertility watchdog “not fit for purpose”

HFEA needs thorough reform, says academic

An expert in patient safety has delivered a blistering attack on the UK’s
fertility watchdog after embryo mix-ups in fertility clinics surfaced in the
media recently. Professor Brian Toft, of Coventry University, who chaired an
inquiry into a similar scandal in 2002, said that the Human Fertilisation and
Embryology Authority was not "fit for purpose" – that’s British officialese for
as useless as a chocolate teapot.

The embryos of three patients at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London were
destroyed and their IVF cycles were stopped after the bungles in February.

According to the Sunday Times, a furious Professor Toft has told the
UK’s chief medical officer that the HFEA is failing to protect the 37,000 women
who have fertility treatment every year. The HFEA is responsible for regulating
IVF clinics. "I cannot imagine what it must have been like to be undergoing that
kind of treatment and then for someone to say ‘We haven’t done the job properly
and, as a consequence, you have lost your embryos’. It is just beyond belief."
In his letter he wrote: "The HFEA should be reformed if it is ever to be fit for

The head of the HFEA, Alan Doran, seemed unflustered by the fuss: "It is not
the case that we have failed to investigate serious incidents at Guy’s, nor is
it the case that we have not implemented the Toft recommendations. But, of
course, we can always do better and we welcome the chance to work with those who
can help us improve." ~ London
Times, May 3