Private fertility clinics are charging up to £400 for prospective couples to take coronavirus tests, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has learned.
Private fertility clinics closed on 23 March (see BioNews 1040) under government restrictions, and were required to obtain HFEA approval before they were able to reopen in the week commencing 11 May (see BioNews 1045), subject to HFEA guidance, which did not call for testing.
Sarah Norcross, of the Progress Educational Trust fertility charity, said: 'Fertility clinics should not be seeking to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be some necessary additional costs to fertility treatment because of the need for COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment (PPE) for fertility patients prior to starting an IVF cycle, but clinics must not over-charge for such tests.'
Several clinics are charging large sums for COVID-19 tests. At CARE Fertility, where tests are not compulsory if the patients are symptom-free, the charges are £150 for the antigen test and £45 for the coronavirus antibody test to see whether individuals have already been infected and recovered from the viral infection. If a patient has symptoms they are referred to the NHS.
Fertility Plus has made nose and throat swabs, and blood tests prerequisite conditions for women to undertake their procedures. Their partners may also be required to be tested, at an additional £150.
HFEA guidance to clinics wishing to reopen did not state that IVF patients should be tested for COVID-19. Clinics have to submit a written 'COVID-19 Treatment Commencement Strategy', including detailed risk assessments and new standard operating procedures incorporating social distancing in waiting rooms. Clinics also had to detail their use of PPE and remote telephone appointments where possible. The HFEA said: 'We made it clear that we expect clinics to act responsibly and, if they must charge for these tests, the charges should be reasonable. '
The expensive COVID-19 tests add to the already complicated situation for patients restarting or initiating delayed treatment cycles due to the coronavirus.