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Human tissue regulator says it should retain functions

13 August 2012
Appeared in BioNews 668

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. The Human Tissue Authority (HTA) faces abolition under proposals to transfer the regulator's functions elsewhere but has defended its role in regulating human tissue and upholding public confidence.

In a position statement the HTA opposed a proposal to divide its functions between different bodies, one of three options outlined in the Government's consultation on the future of the HTA and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the UK's fertility regulator. Separating the HTA's functions, it said, would 'likely to result in more complex, bureaucratic and costly regulation, without delivering any benefit to the public'.

The Public Bodies Act empowers the Government to dismantle the HFEA and the HTA and to transfer the regulators' functions to other bodies. A UK-wide consultation launched by the Department of Health in June this year asks for views on whether the HFEA and HTA should be abolished and the regulator's responsibilities reallocated to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), or if some functions should be transferred to other organisations. It also asks for views on whether the HFEA and HTA should continue to retain their functions, with further cost-savings put in place.

The HTA's statement proposed that 'the safe and ethical use of human tissue is best ensured by keeping the regulatory functions together in a single organisation'. It added the HTA could neither support nor oppose the proposal to transfer its functions to the CQC without further information - although it did say the proposal 'poses a number of significant risks for the effective and efficient provision of HTA functions'.

'The HTA believes that option three – to retain the HTA as a separate organisation and to make further efficiencies – is, subject to clarification of the further efficiencies expected, by far the best option for the regulated sectors and the public as a whole', the statement read.

It continued: 'The key priority for the HTA is to ensure that human tissue and organs continue to be used safely and ethically, and with proper consent, during and after any transfer of HTA functions', adding that any proposed transferral would not likely take place before 2015.

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

HTA announces preferred option for its future
Human Tissue Authority |  30 July 2012
28 January 2013 - by Dr Louisa Petchey 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Human Tissue Authority (HTA) have been spared the 'bonfire of the quangos' it was announced on Friday, but will be subject to an independent review to improve efficiency...
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...
2 July 2012 - by Earl Howe 
Standards should never come into question, but it's clear to this Government that NHS administrative costs can be streamlined. That is why I set out proposals to change responsibility for regulating fertility treatment and human tissue last week...
2 July 2012 - by Ayesha Ahmad 
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....
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)...
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....
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