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Sunday, 30 June, 2002, 23:46 GMT 00:46 UK
Price rise to hit IVF patients
IVF test tubes
Thousands of women undergo IVF treatment each year
Patients could face higher fees for infertility treatment under plans to improve the way UK clinics are regulated.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has said it needs to double its budget, from 1.5m per year to at least 4m, if it is to work effectively.

In a consultation document, published Monday, it said the extra money should come from clinics.


Clinics might pass some or all of this increase onto patients

Prof Ian Craft, London Fertility Centre
However, doctors have warned that the charges will be passed onto patients who will have to pay more for IVF treatment.

Traditionally, the HFEA has been funded through fees levied on patients for each IVF treatment cycle.

At present, that fee accounts for 40 of the average total cost of a cycle which is about 1,200.

Clinic fees

Under these proposals, its income would in future come directly from clinics which the HFEA says will be fairer on patients.

Fertility centres would be charged an annual fee. They would also face further costs if they wished to extend their services or if it they were applying to operate in the UK for the first time.

Clinics are unable to operate in the UK unless they are licensed by the HFEA.

Officials say the current budget, which has remained the same since the HFEA was established in 1991, is inadequate given the increasing demands for regulation of fertility services.

The government has refused to pay these extra costs. Under Treasury guidelines, authorities like the HFEA are expected to be funded by those it regulates.

Suzi Leather, HFEA chairwoman, said: "The HFEA has managed its first decade as a low cost organisation with a limited infrastructure.

"The budget has remained at the same level since the organisation was established in 1991 and is no longer adequate to provide the level of service that patients and service providers deserve and need."

Criticism

But Professor Ian Craft of the London Fertility Centre criticised the move.

He it was "highly likely" the extra charges would be passed onto patients.

Speaking to BBC News Online, he said: "I have always thought it was wrong to charge patients or clinics. It should be centrally funded by government. Clinics might pass some or all of this increase onto patients."

He added: "I think we are going to have little choice but to pay the fees. Otherwise the clinics will not get a license."

See also:

10 Jul 01 | Health
13 Apr 02 | Health
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