The UK's regulatory body on the use and storage of human tissue has outlined its position in support of its continued existence amid the Government's review of arm's length bodies. The Human Tissue Authority (HTA) faces abolition under proposals to transfer the regulator's functions elsewhere but has defended its role in regulating human tissue and upholding public confidence.
In a position statement the HTA opposed a proposal to divide its functions between different bodies, one of three options outlined in the Government's consultation on the future of the HTA and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the UK's fertility regulator. Separating the HTA's functions, it said, would 'likely to result in more complex, bureaucratic and costly regulation, without delivering any benefit to the public'.
The Public Bodies Act empowers the Government to dismantle the HFEA and the HTA and to transfer the regulators' functions to other bodies. A UK-wide consultation launched by the Department of Health in June this year asks for views on whether the HFEA and HTA should be abolished and the regulator's responsibilities reallocated to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), or if some functions should be transferred to other organisations. It also asks for views on whether the HFEA and HTA should continue to retain their functions, with further cost-savings put in place.
The HTA's statement proposed that 'the safe and ethical use of human tissue is best ensured by keeping the regulatory functions together in a single organisation'. It added the HTA could neither support nor oppose the proposal to transfer its functions to the CQC without further information - although it did say the proposal 'poses a number of significant risks for the effective and efficient provision of HTA functions'.
'The HTA believes that option three – to retain the HTA as a separate organisation and to make further efficiencies – is, subject to clarification of the further efficiencies expected, by far the best option for the regulated sectors and the public as a whole', the statement read.
It continued: 'The key priority for the HTA is to ensure that human tissue and organs continue to be used safely and ethically, and with proper consent, during and after any transfer of HTA functions', adding that any proposed transferral would not likely take place before 2015.
The consultation is open until 28 September. Health minister Earl Frederick Howe said 'any final decisions will be taken after we have fully considered the consultation responses, evidence and other relevant information'.