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Overstretched regulator to police IVF clinics

12 December 2011
Appeared in BioNews 637

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will take over policing of IVF clinics, despite worries it cannot cope with the additional workload.

In a meeting with the Health Minister, Simon Burns, last week, reported by the Guardian, it was confirmed the CQC will absorb many of the duties of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) alongside its main role of inspecting hospitals and care homes.

Dame Jo Williams, head of the CQC, warned that since much of the work fell outside of their remit, it could 'compromise the CQC's ability to deliver its core business'.

The new roles of the CQC will include IVF regulation, inspections at clinics and delivering patient information on fertility. Initially working in partnership with the HFEA, the CQC will also take over the work of the Human Tissue Authority, regulating the use of human tissues in research, treatment and teaching.

The CQC was set up in 2009 and since then has faced heavy criticism, being reprimanded for its handling of the abuse at the Winterbourne View private hospital in Bristol, and for its role in the scandal at Stafford Hospital, following the accidental death of hundreds of patients through neglect. Speaking to the Guardian, an unnamed source at the HFEA described the plans as a 'calamity waiting to happen'.

The Health Minister has confirmed plans to consult before a final decision is made. The Public Accounts Committee is due to question the CQC on its ability to take on these new responsibilities when it meets today, Monday 12 December. It will report in January.

The HFEA is due to be abolished at the end of the current parliament. In recent years, it has been central to UK policymaking in controversial areas, including lifting gamete donor anonymity, and research using embryonic stem cells.

A spokesman for the Department of Health assured people that 'The department has a constant dialogue with CQC on both its existing role and proposed changes to that role as well as the timing of those changes and will continue to work closely with CQC'.

NHS watchdog told to police IVF clinics despite workload concerns
Guardian |  7 December 2011
30 April 2012 - by Annabel Christie 
Following the investigation of abortion clinics, fertility clinics should now improve their procedures so that there are no unwanted surprises if they are similarly inspected...
2 April 2012 - by Dr Tamara Hirsch 
A recent report claims England's regulator of health and social care, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), is not at present ready to take on the functions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)...
20 February 2012 - by Victoria Kay 
The UK's fertility watchdog, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has amassed cash reserves of around £3.4 million from charges to the clinics it licenses, prompting calls for the money to be given back to those seeking IVF treatment....
19 December 2011 - by Sandy Starr 
The Public Bodies Bill - which empowers the UK Government to transfer the functions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the country's regulator of fertility treatment and embryo research - has received Royal Assent and has become the Public Bodies Act. This Act represents the realisation in statute of the Coalition Government's longstanding plans for a 'bonfire of the quangos'...
24 October 2011 - by Walter Merricks 
Perhaps the Government is right to plan to abolish the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). The astonishing behaviour of its members at last week's open Authority meeting over compensation for egg and sperm donors will lower its reputation in the eyes of some of its erstwhile supporters. Those who might have manned the barricades to halt the Government's plans may now wonder whether the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the health and social care regulator set to take over the H...
7 February 2011 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) was once again the topic of a debate in the House of Lords on 1 February 2011. Following the proposed abolition of the HFEA and the Human Tissue Authority (HTA), Baroness Glenys Thornton asked how the UK government will maintain public confidence and patient safety....
2 August 2010 - by Dr Evan Harris 
In its quick review of Arm's Length Bodies, published last week, the Government announced the HFEA would be disbanded. The news was welcomed by some, criticised by others and the HFEA put out a fairly terse statement...
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