It was amazing to hear the announcement from the HFEA, that clinics can apply to reopen from the 11th May as long as they can show how they will maintain distancing, protect patients and staff. However, it has still left many of you wondering how things will work?
We put your questions to Dr Zabeena Pandian, Consultant at Boston Place, the Fertility Partnership’s clinic in Marylebone.
When do you think clinics will actually reopen? Will it be close to May 11th?
IVF Clinics can apply to The HFEA to restart services from 11th May. The HFEA has stated that it intends to reply within 5 working days. So it is safe to assume the earliest a clinic is likely to be able to open will be the week beginning 18th May.
Is it true that NHS clinics will be opening later than private clinics?
Private or NHS may not be the key element, especially as many clinics treat both NHS and private patients. Clinics across the UK will be applying at different times dependent on their individual position or requirements for staffing and ensuring patient safety. We at the Fertility Partnership have the benefit of having been through the re-opening phase in eleven of our clinics in five other countries, so our processes, clinics and teams are prepared and we have PPE in clinics ready to open as soon as is possible.
How will clinics cope with the mad rush of patients?
Our clinics have kept in touch with all patients and know exactly how many people are at each step of their journey. By keeping in touch, we have been able to plan our diaries accordingly and will be able to accommodate our patients. We can offer egg collections seven days a week and can extend our opening hours. We fully understand that getting started on treatment is at the forefront of our patients’ minds. We are also supporting patients starting out on treatment and have opened more diagnostic clinics to ensure that no-one is left out.
I was meant to begin my first round of IVF in May, but obviously it got cancelled. Will I have to wait in line behind those who had already started treatment prior to lockdown? If yes, how much longer do you think I will have to wait?
This will be specific to the clinic you are being treated, but at the Fertility Partnership, we are not working on a waiting list system. We are in touch with all our patients to calculate their personal journey with them. If a patient is not attending one of our clinics and is concerned, they should contact their clinic to ask the question.
Once I do eventually start treatment, can you explain how things will work with social distancing in place?
We are ensuring reduced footfall into our clinics, to keep patients and staff safe. This means that consultations will continue by video, which is working well and can be more adaptable to fit into a busy life!, appointments in clinic will be for 1 person (we ask partners to wait in their car for example), we have 2 metre distancing within a clinic, and where that isn’t practical our staff will be wearing a mask, and or goggles if taking blood. We do warn people that we won’t be able to shake their hand when we meet them, but we do promise a smile!
Will my husband be allowed in with me to consultations?
Your husband/partner will be allowed to join you on a video consultation – another benefit of this technology! But as mentioned, only one person will be allowed into clinic appointments. At this time we are asking partners to wait outside the clinic.
Will staff be wearing PPE so that I can be closer than 2M?
Yes, where the appointment requires our staff to be closer than 2 Metres from you, such as for scans, blood tests, egg collections and embryo transfers, the staff will be wearing PPE.
Do I need to be wearing gloves and a mask at all times in the clinic?
At this point in time the government advice is that this is not necessary. We will ensure 2m distances are maintained and this will be clearly marked in our clinics, similar to how some supermarkets have introduced.
Is there any risk of catching coronavirus?
The measures we are taking in our clinics are designed to keep all of our patients and staff safe. From limiting the number of people in our clinics at any time, high hygiene standards, enforcing social distancing to wearing PPE. We are following government guidance and best practice from our clinic re-openings across Europe to minimise any risk.
If I did catch it at the start of my treatment, would I have to cancel?
Yes, if you test positive for coronavirus prior to your egg collection, we would need to pause your treatment until you are well again, when we would then resume. This is for your safety and those around you.
Are you testing patients for the coronavirus?
No, testing for coronavirus will continue through the standard government channels.
If I catch it, am I potentially putting my baby at risk?
Currently studies do not suggest that pregnant women are at increased risk of catching Covid-19, or that infection causes problems with their baby. Having said that, it’s a new virus and studies are limited. Therefore it is important to minimise the chance of catching infection through careful hygiene and social distancing measures. The NHS recommends that if pregnant at this time, you should make sure you attend your scheduled scans.
If you have any further questions about the reopening of clinics, please do drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org