Date Published: 31 May 2007

Ensuring safety and information for IVF patients (UK)

Health News from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The HFEA strongly refutes any allegation that it is failing women in its regulation of the UK's IVF sector.

The HFEA goes to the extent of its powers to regulate those procedures involving the creation of embryos outside the body and donor sperm and the implantation of these into a woman. As with all areas of medicine, the UK's system of regulation for IVF procedures and associated treatment involves co-ordinated working between a series of regulators.

They state that they have given very public warnings people going through IVF about untested and unvalidated treatments, such as Reproductive Immunology, and tell patients to make sure they are clear about what they will be paying for - as more than a third of patients tell us they pay more for their IVF treatment than they expect.

However, the HFEA does not have the legal power or role to regulate any treatments that doctors or clinics offer alongside the IVF procedures. These are a matter for a doctor's professional judgement, for which they are accountable to the General Medical Council.

Likewise the HFEA is not a financial regulator and has no legal remit to regulate the cost or provision of treatment. However , they do encourage patients to discuss this issue carefully with their clinic. The HFEA states that clinics should give each and every patient a costed treatment plan before their treatment starts, detailing all the procedures that take place and what they will cost, so a patient is properly able to discuss these matters with their clinician to ensure that they are happy with what is planned for them.

Doctors and other professionals who have concerns about professional standards - such as the use of unscientific treatments and unnecessary procedures - should be raising these issues through their professional bodies such as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the General Medical Council and the British Fertility Society, not the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

The HFEA states that it does everything in its power to uphold appropriate standards in the sector. In addition to this work around patient safety, the HFEA also has an important role in producing impartial patient information. This includes a Guide to Infertility, Find a Clinic data - giving details of clinics services and success rates, patient factsheets about particular procedures and a range of Questions and Answers on a number of important topics.

This is all available through the HFEA website at


Source: Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HEFA), UK.

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