28 January 2013
ByAppeared in BioNews 690
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Human Tissue Authority (HTA) have been spared the 'bonfire of the quangos' but will be subject to an independent review to improve efficiency. This follows the conclusion of the Government's consultation on merging these regulatory bodies with the existing Care Quality Commission (CQC) as part of plans to cut NHS administrative spending.
The decision was welcomed by both the HFEA and HTA. Professor Lisa Jardine, chair of the HFEA, said she was 'delighted' with the Government's decision, adding that she saw the efficiency review as an opportunity for the regulatory body to 'strengthen and streamline' its activities. This was echoed by Baroness Diana Warwick, chair of the HTA, who said that the HTA was already an 'extremely efficient regulator' but looked forward to the perspective brought by an independent review.
In its statement, the Department of Health emphasised that further changes to the system that regulates assisted reproduction and the use of human embryos and tissues in the UK was needed, but opted to improve rather than axe the existing bodies. This will include consideration of the possibility of merging the HFEA and HTA. Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said the review, which will be undertaken by Justin McCracken, current chief executive of the Health Protection Agency, will report in April and help 'ensure they offer taxpayers the best value'.
The majority of respondents to the Government consultation last year, including the Wellcome Trust, the British Medical Association, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Progress Educational Trust, favoured maintaining the independence of the HFEA and HTA, with further savings being made.
The British Fertility Society (BFS) had supported plans for the HFEA to be taken over by the CQC and the new Health Research Authority, citing concerns over efficiency and the justification for a dedicated regulator with fertility treatment now 'well established in clinical practice'. Following the Government's announcement, Dr Allan Pacey, chairman of the BFS, said that he welcomed plans for a 'thorough and objective review' of the HFEA and hoped a 'far simpler system' could be developed.