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Government launches consultation on future of UK human fertilisation and tissue regulators

2 July 2012
Appeared in BioNews 663

The UK Government has launched a consultation on the future of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Human Tissue Authority (HTA) amid proposals to transfer the regulators' functions elsewhere.

The UK-wide consultation asks for views on whether the HFEA and HTA should be abolished and the regulator's responsibilities reallocated to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), with the HFEA's research functions transferred to the newly formed Health Research Authority – or if some functions should be transferred to organisations other than the CQC. It also asks for views on whether the HFEA and HTA should continue to retain their functions, with further cost-savings made.

Health minister Earl Frederick Howe said the consultation is part of the Government's overall programme to streamline arm's-length bodies, which is hoped will deliver savings of over £180 million by 2015.

'Services must be delivered in the most efficient way possible. By making sure that the right functions are being carried out at the appropriate level, we will free up savings to support front-line NHS services', he said.

The Public Bodies Act empowers the UK Government to dismantle the HFEA and the HTA and to transfer the regulators' functions to other bodies. A recent report, however, questioned the readiness of the CQC to take on the HFEA's functions, highlighting shortcomings in its performance (reported in BioNews 651) and there has been concern expressed over the proposals. During the debate of the Public Bodies Bill (as it then was) in the House of Commons, MPs Frank Dobson, Jon Trickett and Valerie Vaz emphasised the role of the HFEA and HTA in upholding public confidence and undertaking important work.

However, amid the controversy surrounding funding cuts in fertility treatment in various parts of the UK, the move to consider areas where cost savings can be made has also been welcomed.

Commenting on the consultation, Dr Allan Pacey, chairman of the British Fertility Society (BFS) said: 'The British Fertility Society is absolutely committed to upholding the principles enshrined in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. However, in today's difficult economic climate, it is clear that we must take a long hard look at how the fertility sector in the UK is regulated and see whether there are alternative models that can do this more efficiently'.

Dr Pacey said the BFS will consult with its membership before responding to the consultation. 'Improvement in the current process of regulation would be supported by the Society, although change for change's sake without clear evidence of benefit would not', he added.

The consultation is open for responses until 28 September. Earl Howe said 'any final decisions will be taken after we have fully considered the consultation responses, evidence and other relevant information'.

British Fertility Society response to announcement of the Department of Health consultation on fertility and human tissue regulation
British Fertility Society |  28 June 2012
Future of fertility and human tissue regulators considered
Department of Health |  28 June 2012
Our say on the future of the HFEA and HTA
AMRC blog |  28 June 2012
18 November 2019 - by Dr Marieke Bigg 
The former Labour health secretary Frank Dobson, whose contributions in Parliament helped to pass the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, passed away on 11 November 2019, aged 79...
24 September 2012 - by Cait McDonagh 
'Quangoing, going, gone', a debate organised by the Progress Educational Trust and the Anne McLaren Memorial Fund highlighted the diverse viewpoints on just what should happen to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority as the government seeks to streamline health regulation...
3 September 2012 - by Henny Braund 
The political debate around the Government's Arm's-Length Body Review has centred on whether any change will deliver greater accountability, financial efficiencies or cuts to services. For Anthony Nolan, a charity that helps provide stem cells for patients who need life-saving transplants, the review is more nuanced...
13 August 2012 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The UK's regulatory body on the use and storage of human tissue has outlined its position in support of its continued existence amid the Government's review of arm's length bodies...
23 July 2012 - by Walter Merricks 
To many people concerned with donor conception - patients, parents, donors and donor-conceived people - the Government plans to abolish the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) sound extremely worrying...
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....
16 January 2012 - by Professor Allan Pacey 
Crystal ball gazing has never been my strong suit but I found myself rising to the challenge now that I have taken over the mantle of Chairman of the British Fertility Society. What is clear is that 2012 should turn out to be an interesting year...
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'...
31 October 2011 - by Sandy Starr 
The Public Bodies Bill - which, if passed, will allow the Government to abolish the UK's fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority - has completed its report stage and third reading in the House of Commons...
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