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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2006, 19:30 GMT
Infertility advice is 'lacking'
Image of fertility treatment
The report looked at clinics offering IVF and donor insemination
Fertility clinics are failing to provide enough information to potential patients, a regulator says.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) looked at the performance of UK clinics offering IVF and donor insemination.

While the majority of its standards were being met by most of the 78 clinics, the HFEA found clear areas where big improvements were needed.

It said just half of clinics gave patients adequate information.

Informed consent

Too often patients did not have enough access to counselling.

Without access to all the facts, patients can not give proper informed consent
Angela McNab
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority chief executive
The HFEA said the paucity of information and limited opportunities for discussion made it hard for patients to decide whether or not to opt for treatment.

Other areas of concern thrown up by its investigation were the safety of lab procedures and equipment.

The HFEA stressed, however, that most clinics were performing well.

Six clinics were responsible for nearly a quarter of the problems revealed in the report.

Angela McNab, HFEA chief executive, said: "Information and counselling are of particular concern, as without access to all the facts, patients can not give proper informed consent.

"Patients must have clear, accurate, comprehensive information and given the opportunity to explore fully its implications."

The need to provide patients with comprehensive information about infertility and its treatment is fundamental to good medical practice
Dr Mark Hamilton
British Fertility Society chairman
She said the HFEA had a range of powers that it used to push forward improvement in failing clinics.

These include putting conditions on a clinic's licence and even revoking it.

Mark Hamilton, chairman of the British Fertility Society, said: "In the UK some 40,000 IVF treatment cycles are carried out every year and more than 10,000 babies born as a result. With this volume of work it is inevitable that on a few occasions some patients may express dissatisfaction with care.

"Every complaint, including those alluded to in this report, merits serious attention.

"The need to provide patients with comprehensive information about infertility and its treatment is fundamental to good medical practice and the principle of a patient centred approach to infertility care is something which the BFS has supported for many years."

He added: "In any large organisation, including governmental bodies such as the HFEA, there is always room for improvement in terms of delivery of service, communication, efficiency etc.

"The BFS continues to work hard with clinics as well as the regulator to ensure that infertile patients in the UK receive the best possible care."




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