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Underperforming British fertility clinics identified

15 January 2007
Appeared in BioNews 391

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has published a list of the best and worst performing fertility clinics in the UK. The regulator carried out inspections of the UK's 78 fertility clinics between April 2005 and March 2006. The clinics have been named following a request under the Freedom of Information Act following the report's publication. The HFEA said the inspections had not been intended to act as a 'naming and shaming' exercise, but had been carried out to gain an overview of the sector. Clinics were assessed across 32 categories, including areas such as patient information, risk management, safety and staff competence. Success rates in helping women to give birth were not taken into account, leading to the anomaly that Britain's most successful clinic in terms of achieving live births, the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre in London, scored second lowest in the league table. The lowest scoring clinic, the Reproductive Genetics Institute in London, no longer has an HFEA licence.

The scores were calculated from an ideal position of 0, with breaches resulting in points lost. For each issue raised that involved a breach of law the clinic in question scored -3, a breach of the HFEA Code of Practice scored -2, and other forms of poor practice scored -1. Six clinics scored less than -15, including the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre in London (-29) and the no longer operational Reproductive Genetics Institute in London (-34), additionally the London Women's Clinic (-22), the Winterbourne Clinic, Dorset (-19), Brentwood Fertility (-17) and the Reproductive Medicine Unit at University College Hospital London (-16). Dr Mohammed Taranissi, director of the poorly-scoring Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre in London, said that he was angry at the report and described the results as bizarre. Speaking to the Guardian, Mr Taranissi said that the HFEA had consistently failed to explain how it had applied its scoring to his clinic. 'There are a lot of disputed facts in this report. If we are producing the best results that tells you something', he said.

Just five clinics scored the highest possible score of 0, these were the Care Fertility Centre, Nottingham, the ISIS Fertility Centre, Colchester, St Mary's Hospital, Manchester, the Christie Hospital NHS Trust, Manchester, and the Willow Suite at the Thames Valley Nuffield Hospital. HFEA spokesman John Paul Maytum said that there was 'much more to clinics than just a success rate.' He continued, 'the big issues for patients are things such as the quality of patient information and counselling services. It is an emotional, difficult time for people ... you could end up with a child but have a lot of problems getting there. The quality of care at this time is very important'.

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