On Friday in a surprise move Matt Hancock MP announced the re-opening of fertility centres. This is of course widely welcomed by patients and those working in the specialty. Currently licensed treatment is suspended by virtue of General Direction 0014 placed on centres’ Licence to Practice on 23rd March by the HFEA. By lunchtime Friday, in response to the planned ministerial statement the HFEA had written to all PRs confirming the principles of how resumption of treatment will occur. Centres will be required to apply to proceed by confirming to their inspectors that they are able to do so safely in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
BFS and ARCS are working hard to produce guidelines for the sector to ensure the safe and timely resumption of services.
Since the work undertaken in centres, their local facilities and capacity and their NHS status and commitments are very varied, the timing of opening for each is likely to be quite different. Return of furloughed and redeployed staff, the procurement of PPE required at increased levels and the supply of some medications and consumables may also have an impact on centres’ abilities to resume work as well as their capacity when they do. Patients should communicate with their clinics regarding their own start-up plans.
It is a great relief to feel that we can now move forward but we must ensure that we continue to communicate appropriately and fairly with our patients about what can be achieved in the short term and timescales for their individual plans. Centres must continue to consider their role and responsibilities in relation to the ongoing lockdown and potential for changing circumstances with the anticipated announcement by the Prime Minister of further Government plans next week.