Coronavirus (COVID-19) update 28 April 2020: Restarting treatment, clinic closures, and storage limit extended
We understand what a difficult and emotional time this is for fertility patients with fertility treatment ceasing from 15 April 2020 in line with other NHS and private healthcare.
Our aim is to allow as many patients as possible to resume safe treatment as soon as possible. Our Board met yesterday to continue to discuss how we can make this happen and what criteria need to be satisfied before clinics can re-open.
Any decision to allow fertility clinics to re-open will consider the views of the UK professional fertility societies (BFS/ARCS) and the impact that resuming treatment would have on NHS services. We also need to be assured that clinics are able to provide a safe service to patients and a safe working environment for clinic staff.
We recognise the distress this closure is causing any patients awaiting fertility treatment and hope that those relying on NHS funding will be allowed to continue their treatment as they expected.
We want to reassure patients and clinics that we are actively working on an exit strategy to enable fertility treatment to resume when Government restrictions on social contact and travel are lifted.
Storage limit for frozen eggs, sperm and embryos extended during coronavirus outbreak
In recognition of the potential impact that the COVID-19 pandemic may have on those wishing to start a family, the Government has today confirmed that the current 10-year storage limit for embryos and gametes will be extended by two years.
Our Chair, Sally Cheshire, said:
“We welcome today’s announcement from the DHSC. We have been working together to ensure those patients who have stored sperm, eggs or embryos that are reaching the 10-year storage limit are not penalised by the current suspension of fertility treatment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know this is a difficult and distressing time for all patients, so this decision brings good news for those who are reaching the 10-year storage limit. It provides them with some much-needed reassurance and most importantly gives more time to try for their much longed for family.”
We will be issuing new guidance to fertility clinics in the UK to support them in implementing the new storage limit extension.
Due to Covid-19, we issued a General Direction which requires all clinics to have a COVID-19 treatment strategy in place and to have stopped all treatments by 15 April 2020. This Direction was implemented in line with the professional guidelines from the BFS and ARCS, as well as advice from the NHS that all non-urgent, elective surgery should stop by 15 April 2020 at the latest.
General Directions are issued when we need to change clinic practice in line with new policy or guidance. General Directions are mandatory, meaning that all clinics must follow them. If a clinic fails to do so, it would be a breach of a statutory licence condition, which may have serious implications on their license, including suspending or revoking a clinic’s license.