Coronavirus (COVID-19) update 2 November 2020: statement on fertility treatment services
On Saturday 31 October the Prime Minister announced a second lockdown in England beginning, subject to Parliamentary approval, on Thursday 5 November. This follows earlier decisions by the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to introduce a variety of similar measures.
Fertility patients are understandably anxious at this time and in the light of these developments we are issuing a further statement to set out our position on fertility treatment across the UK and the expectations we have of clinics.
At this current time we have no plans to implement a national closure of fertility clinics. HFEA licensed clinics have incorporated safe ways of working for patients and clinic staff during the ongoing pandemic as set out in their Treatment Commencement Strategy in May 2020.
At this time, none of the governments across the UK are suggesting that patients should postpone treatment – for example the updated guidance coming into force on Thursday in England includes permission to be outside your home “for any medical concerns, reasons, appointments and emergencies.”
However, with Covid19 cases increasing and hospital admission and death rates predicted to be significantly higher than in the first wave, we expect clinics to promptly review their policies and procedures to ensure renewed detailed action plans are integrated into clinical care immediately.
We expect all clinics to demonstrate how their service can be safely maintained and how they can minimise any possible further impact on the wider NHS, for example by doing all they can to minimise referrals to emergency care. Clinics should consider implementing a freeze all strategy for patients at higher risk of referral and assess patients to identify those at greater risk of requiring NHS care.
We will closely monitor the situation and request that any referrals made by licensed clinics to an NHS facility other than their own clinic be reported through the HFEA incident reporting system. We expect clinics to continue to follow professional and local guidance and let us know immediately if there is a local decision to suspend the services they provide.
Looking ahead, the HFEA will continue to review any new guidance produced by the Government and devolved administrations, the NHS and Professional Societies and make further statements as necessary.