Our regulatory body, the HFEA, supported by guidance published by the British Fertility Society (BFS) and the Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists (ARCS), advised IVF Clinics in the UK on 23rd March that no new treatment cycles should be initiated except in cases of urgent medical need. This includes those who need to preserve their fertility before starting urgent cancer treatment. Having assessed the evolving guidance from our various professional bodies and the government over the preceding two weeks, we had already taken this stance (see my update 22nd March) as we believed this to be the correct approach to maximise patient and staff safety as well as responding appropriately to the complex social and ethical needs of our Nation at this time.
The Chair of the HFEA Sally Cheshire wrote this open letter to patients on 23rd March to explain the reasons behind their decision Open letter from the Chair of the HFEA. These are unprecedented times and many extraordinary measures have been taken, not only nationally but globally, to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Those that have been imposed on fertility clinics are no exception and we are mindful of the significant distress and anxiety they have caused our patients who were already an emotionally vulnerable group. Many have had their fertility treatment cancelled or postponed, uncertain of when they can restart, and others who were planning to start investigations for their infertility do not know who to turn to for help and when they might be able to get answers as to why they are not conceiving. We understand how stressed and worried you may be feeling by the loss of control this situation brings. We have explored every possible option that modern technology can deliver and our team are on standby to respond to your needs, whatever they may be, and answer all your questions. So just call us or request a call-back.
From the moment the COVID-19 pandemic crisis heightened, I have taken daily briefings with my leadership team to ensure the safety of all our patients and staff and support the wider needs in the NHS and community. We recognise that suspending fertility treatments in this way has been deeply upsetting for all those struggling to conceive, particularly when we understand the emotional burden of infertility and are acutely aware that for many time is of the essence.