Fertility Clinics Closed Due To COVID-19, Can Now Reopen. Clinics Will Have To Meet Strict Guidelines To Open
New guidance will allow fertility clinics in the UK to reopen if they can prove measures to protect staff and patients are in place.
People who had to put their fertility treatment on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak will be able to continue their journey to start a family, following the fertility regulator’s decision to lift its suspension of all fertility services.
Fertility clinics across the UK can apply to reopen from Monday 11 May, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has confirmed, if they ensure the safety and protection of staff and patients.
The regulator has today set out new conditions for clinics, both private and NHS, to meet in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
All clinics will be required to set out a strategy to show they are meeting conditions to provide safe and effective treatment during the outbreak before they are given the green light to restart treatment.
Social distancing will be a requirement in waiting rooms and telephone appointments could be used where suitable. Appropriate personal protective equipment will also be provided where necessary.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock 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.
Many private clinics may be able to demonstrate their readiness to restart services relatively quickly, but it’s recognised that NHS clinics may require longer to achieve the necessary conditions due to other factors, such as the redeployment of staff in frontline roles.
To ensure fair provision, the Health and Social Care Secretary will write to all clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) this week to confirm they are in a position to begin resuming fertility treatments to those in their area – either through a private clinic or an NHS service.
He will make clear that all fertility patients should be dealt with fairly and not face any additional disadvantage as a result of the service suspension.
Services were temporarily suspended on 23 March 2020 in response to the coronavirus lockdown, alongside other elective treatments by NHS England.
The new measures will mean individuals and couples looking to start fertility treatment will be able to safely continue to do so.
Clinics will be asked to provide strategic plans to the HFEA to ensure they are meeting the safety needs of patients before being given the go-ahead that they can reopen. An auditing tool will be used to ensure compliance with guidelines.
This follows news last week that the government will allow anyone who has frozen their eggs, sperm and embryos to extend their storage for an additional 2 years, as part of wider plans to support those going through fertility treatment during the global coronavirus pandemic.
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