Fertility clinics will reopen on 11 May, the UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock has confirmed. Following guidance from the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA), clinics have been closed since 23 March. The HFEA have advised clinics can apply to reopen if they meet the safety requirements for staff and patients.
Sally Cheshire, Chair, HFEA, said, “I know that the closure of clinics has been extremely distressing for patients. This will be good news for those resuming treatment and trying for their much longed for family.” She was echoed by representatives of private and National Health Service (NHS) fertility providers. Dr Geeta Nargund, Consultant for Reproductive Medicine, St George’s Hospital NHS Trust said, “We thank the government for recognising the distress faced by thousands of women and couples across our nation and acting swiftly to help them. We must ensure that effective social distancing and safety measures are put in place, so that we can not only help save lives but start creating lives again.”
Private clinics may open quicker than NHS facilities
Whereas private clinics will have no problem getting back up to speed quickly. The Department of Health (DOH) said that NHS clinics may need longer because of the current deployment of staff to frontline roles in the fight against COVID19. The DOH are allowing Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to commission either NHS services or private providers in the interim period. This allows for a fair provision of services throughout the country.
The CCGs will also have to put in place a framework for resuming services. Clinics will only reopen if they can prove measures to protect staff and patients are in place. Measures will include:
- Social distancing provisions in waiting rooms
- Use of telehealth appointments (Zoom, Skype, telephone etc) where suitable
- Provision of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where necessary
Clinics will also have to utilise an auditing tool to ensure that they are complying with the new guidelines. Mr Hancock, speaking for the government said, “Now that we are past the peak, I am delighted to announce the restoration of fertility services. People who are relying on fertility treatment have been worried during these unprecedented times not knowing when they could continue their journey to start a family. We wanted to open these clinics as soon as it was safe to do so, and our strict guidelines will ensure staff and patients remain safe as we continue to tackle this virus.”
The Fertility Hub welcomes the reopening of UK fertility centres. We are pleased to have been part of the movement that highlighted the stress placed on patients by the closure of IVF units across the UK.