In May this year, the HFEA - the independent regulator for IVF treatment and embryo research - announced that as of 1 October, clinics would pay a fee of £104.50 for a patient's initial treatment cycle using SET. In the event that the first cycle was unsuccessful, each subsequent frozen embryo transfer would not be charged. Now, however, the HFEA has announced that the proposed change will not occur in October, stating that the 'Department of Health have not yet indicated their approval of the proposal'.
At the moment, clinics have to pay the HFEA £104.50 for each IVF cycle they carry out. Because many clinics pass this fee onto patients, the HFEA says that this can influence patients to have multiple embryos transferred in a single cycle to cut costs. This, in turn, can increase the risk of multiple pregnancy.
Professor Lisa Jardine, the Chair of the HFEA said in May that: 'We want to send a positive message to patients and clinics that we are doing everything in our power to promote low risk single embryo transfer fertility treatment'.
Many practitioners welcomed the proposed alteration to the fee structure. Dr Kamal Ahuja, Scientific and Managing Director at the London Women's Clinic said: 'I would welcome the latest initiative from the HFEA to stimulate the acceptance of elective single embryo transfer (eSET) by patients and practitioners. Practitioners like us would need to deploy this small but useful HFEA gesture to improve the uptake of eSET in UK licensed centres'.
He added: 'Patients would see this as a fair demonstration of the regulator's faith in the policies it champions'.
The HFEA states that it remains 'committed to removing obstacles that discourage patients from choosing single embryo transfer' and a statement on the authority's website says that it will ensure that patients and clinics are kept up to date on the proposal.