HFEA reassure fertility patients as second UK lockdown looms

The Human Fertility and Embryology Authority has said it has no plans to close fertility clinics during the second UK-wide lockdown begins

The fertility watchdog released a statement via its website yesterday stating that looking at the new government guidelines, it can see no reason for patients to stop treatment at the moment.

It was a nervous time for fertility patients when the news was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but they can breathe a sigh of relief for now.

The HFEA said: “Fertility patients are understandably anxious at this time and in the light of these developments we are issuing a further statement to set out our position on fertility treatment across the UK and the expectations we have of clinics.

“At this current time, we have no plans to implement a national closure of fertility clinics. HFEA licensed clinics have incorporated safe ways of working for patients and clinic staff during the ongoing pandemic as set out in their Treatment Commencement Strategy in May 2020.

“At this time, none of the governments across the UK are suggesting that patients should postpone treatment – for example, the updated guidance coming into force on Thursday in England includes permission to be outside your home ‘for any medical concerns, reasons, appointments and emergencies’.”

“However, with Covid-19 cases increasing and hospital admission and death rates predicted to be significantly higher than in the first wave, we expect clinics to promptly review their policies and procedures to ensure renewed detailed action plans are integrated into clinical care immediately.

“We expect all clinics to demonstrate how their service can be safely maintained and how they can minimise any possible further impact on the wider NHS, for example by doing all they can to minimise referrals to emergency care. Clinics should consider implementing a freeze all strategy and risk assess patients to identify those at greater risk of requiring NHS care.”

Thousands of devastated couples had their treatment put on hold in March due to coronavirus. They had to wait six weeks before clinics were allowed to re-open and for their treatment to commence.

The HFEA has also announced that the storage limit for frozen eggs, sperm, and embryos has been extended by two years.

New legislation came into effect on July 1, 2020, so that those undergoing fertility treatment during the coronavirus pandemic have more time to continue their treatment.

The new law, entitled the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Statutory Storage Period for Embryos and Gametes) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020.

The HFEA has said that if anyone has any questions relating to their frozen eggs, sperm, and embryos, they recommend they contact their clinic.

An HFEA spokeswoman said: “We will closely monitor the situation and request that any referrals made by licensed clinics to an NHS facility other than their own clinic be reported through the HFEA incident reporting system. We expect clinics to continue to follow professional and local guidance and let us know immediately if there is a local decision to suspend the services they provide.”

The HFEA concluded it will continue to review the situation with any new guidance produced over the coming weeks and months.

 

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