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UK fertility and human tissue regulators spared axe

28 January 2013
Appeared in BioNews 690

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Human Tissue Authority (HTA) have been spared the 'bonfire of the quangos' but will be subject to an independent review to improve efficiency. This follows the conclusion of the Government's consultation on merging these regulatory bodies with the existing Care Quality Commission (CQC) as part of plans to cut NHS administrative spending.

The decision was welcomed by both the HFEA and HTA. Professor Lisa Jardine, chair of the HFEA, said she was 'delighted' with the Government's decision, adding that she saw the efficiency review as an opportunity for the regulatory body to 'strengthen and streamline' its activities. This was echoed by Baroness Diana Warwick, chair of the HTA, who said that the HTA was already an 'extremely efficient regulator' but looked forward to the perspective brought by an independent review.

In its statement, the Department of Health emphasised that further changes to the system that regulates assisted reproduction and the use of human embryos and tissues in the UK was needed, but opted to improve rather than axe the existing bodies. This will include consideration of the possibility of merging the HFEA and HTA. Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said the review, which will be undertaken by Justin McCracken, current chief executive of the Health Protection Agency, will report in April and help 'ensure they offer taxpayers the best value'.

The majority of respondents to the Government consultation last year, including the Wellcome Trust, the British Medical Association, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Progress Educational Trust, favoured maintaining the independence of the HFEA and HTA, with further savings being made.

The British Fertility Society (BFS) had supported plans for the HFEA to be taken over by the CQC and the new Health Research Authority, citing concerns over efficiency and the justification for a dedicated regulator with fertility treatment now 'well established in clinical practice'. Following the Government's announcement, Dr Allan Pacey, chairman of the BFS, said that he welcomed plans for a 'thorough and objective review' of the HFEA and hoped a 'far simpler system' could be developed.

British Fertility Society comment on Department of Health proposals for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)
British Fertility Society (press release) |  25 January 2013
Fertility and tissue regulators to be reviewed following consultation
Department of Health (press release) |  25 January 2013
Government response to consultation on fertility and human tissue regulators
Department of Health |  25 January 2013
HFEA retained as expert regulator
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (press release) |  25 January 2013
HRA response to Dept of Health decision on the future of Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and Human Tissue Authority functions
Health Research Authority (press release) |  25 January 2013
HTA responds to the Government’s announcement on its future
Human Tissue Authority (press release) |  25 January 2013
Two health regulators spared axe but face efficiency review
Guardian |  25 January 2013
16 December 2013 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has announced the appointment of Sally Cheshire as its interim chair when Professor Lisa Jardine's term as chair comes to an end in January 2014....
28 October 2013 - by Sandy Starr 
Professor Lisa Jardine has announced that she is due to step down as chair of the UK's fertility and embryo research regulator, the HFEA, in January 2014...
22 July 2013 - by Cait McDonagh 
The Department of Health has announced that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority will remain the independent regulator of assisted reproduction and embryology research in the UK...
3 June 2013 - by Professor Alison Murdoch 
The culture of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is now one based on self-aggrandisement and self-preservation. But cultural problems with fertility treatment in England and Wales do not stop there and other stakeholders must also be called to account...
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...
17 September 2012 - by Peter Thompson 
It's a busy week for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). As we launch our government-commissioned public consultation on mitochondria replacement, we are in the midst of a public debate about who should regulate IVF and embryo research. We will publish our response to the Government's consultation on the HFEA's future later this week. This comment piece gives a taste of what we will be saying....
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...
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