Much as I’d like to take the credit for this – by having tempted fate in the most positive way with my blog published not a fair five minutes ago… – I suspect recognition ought, in all honesty, to go to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the Secretary of State and all the individuals and charities who have lobbied for fertility centres to be able to open their doors once more.
The HFEA announced on 1 May 2020 that, from the week commencing 11 May, fertility clinics can apply to reopen and resume treatment, provided that they can satisfy their regulator that safe provision can be made for both patients and staff.
Sally Cheshire, the Chair of the HFEA, explained how this would be achieved in practice:
“A revised General Direction 0014 will be issued to licensed UK fertility clinics, which sets out conditions that must be met by a clinic in order to reopen for treatment. These new guidelines aim to ensure the safety of patients, their gametes and embryos, and of clinic staff. Clinics must have a COVID-19 Treatment Commencement Strategy that records the measures the clinic will be taking to comply with current professional body and UK and devolved government guidance on safe and effective treatment.”
The HFEA issues General Directions when it is necessary to change clinic practice consistently with new policy or guidance. Compliance is mandatory and centres must follow them in order to avoid breaching the conditions on, and thereby imperilling, their licence.
Although the revised GD0014 will apply to both NHS and private providers, those patients who require further NHS interventions before resuming treatment may find that it takes the wider NHS, still under siege from the current pandemic, a while longer to get non-urgent treatments back up and running.