The British Fertility Society is very concerned to learn of the problems involving frozen embryos. We do not wish to comment on an individual case, however, we welcome the prompt decision by Liam Donaldson to launch an enquiry and will be pleased to help. We emphasise the need to await the outcome of any enquiry before making further comments..

The freezing and storage of spare embryos is recommended by the BFS and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in its recently Published Clinical Guidelines and standard procedures and practices are advised by the Association of Clinical Embryologists and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. This treatment is licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Centres providing this treatment in the UK are subject to annual inspection and audit of results.

IVF is now routine therapy in the UK. Approximately one third of all IVF treatments generate surplus embryos suitable for freezing, storage and future replacement into the woman. This provides the couple with an additional opportunity for a pregnancy without having to repeat the expense and risks of ovarian drug stimulation.

Infertility is chronically underfunded by the NHS, 70% of such treatments being paid for by the patient, and we believe that this episode further underlines the need for the NHS to adequately fund high quality IVF services in established NHS centres.

Editor’s notes:

  1. The British Fertility Society is the professional organisation representing almost 900 practitioners in the field of infertility and reproductive medicine. The Membership includes scientists, clinicians, counsellors, nurses, embryologists and andrologists.
  2. The British Fertility Society works closely with both the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to establish and promote good practice in the field of infertility.
  3. The British Fertility Society runs two national scientific meetings per year to present scientific and clinical developments in the field of infertility.
  4. IVF = In vitro fertilisation which is now common place treatment for a range of medical conditions.