We write concerning the next steps that we all need to consider in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. You will recall that the Executive Committees of our two societies published guidance on the 18th March designed to respond urgently to the crisis. We are pleased that the overall reaction of the sector to the guidance has been positive, although of course our members do have concerns about the impact on vulnerable patients and on the viability of businesses.

With this in mind, we wrote to you on the 30th March expressing our understanding of these concerns, and promising further guidance as the situation evolves.

At this time the UK is still under lockdown; this commenced on the 23rd March and is due to be in place for at least 3 weeks. We do not yet know whether the current government restrictions will be lifted at the end of this period and, if so, to what extent. We all hope that the net effect of the actions of the population and government will result in a reduced number of serious infections with the virus, allowing a gradual relaxation of restrictions without our NHS being overwhelmed. Epidemiological modelling suggests we may be 7 to 14 days from the ‘peak’ of the pandemic, but only time will tell.

BFS and ARCS also believe that the time has come to start considering in detail how the sector will respond as the restrictions are lifted. There are several important questions to consider. Centres will be working on their own strategies for reintroducing normal working including the potential of how patients may be prioritised. We hope to provide some useful thoughts on how this might best be undertaken.

Importantly we also need to consider what milestones must be passed to allow specific areas of work to recommence, keeping in mind any ongoing risk to patients and staff and avoiding further burden to the NHS. Of course, ultimately, any measures regarding licensed treatments will depend on the approach taken by the HFEA and the wider Government strategy.

In order to address these questions fully, the two societies have set up a joint working group, co-chaired by the Chairs of BFS and ARCS. We encourage all members to provide their views to the group, the task of which is the development of guidance on the above questions. We have already received some very pertinent and valuable thoughts. We would very much welcome your contributions. Please send your views by email to claire.ball@profileproductions.co.uk.

We appreciate that many of our members are not in their accustomed roles at this time, having been redeployed to aid the national effort. However, it is important that you have your say.

The membership of the group is as follows:

Jason Kasraie, Person Responsible, Shropshire and Mid-Wales Fertility Centre, and Chair of ARCS
Jane Stewart, Person Responsible, Newcastle Fertility Centre and Chair of BFS
Alison Campbell, Group Director of Embryology, CARE Fertility
Nick Macklon, Medical Director, London Women’s Clinic
Debbie Evans, Director of Nursing & Clinical Services, Herts and Essex Fertility Centre
Gwenda Burns, Chief Executive, Fertility Network UK

We wish you well at this difficult time.

 

Jane Stewart – Chair of BFS
Jason Kasraie – Chair of ARCS