The first national sperm bank is to open in England this October after receiving a £77,000 grant from the Department of Health.
Charles Lister, chair of the National Gamete Donation Trust (NGDT), said: 'The National Sperm Bank will increase the number of donor samples available for UK licensed clinics, both NHS and private, meaning that many more patients can be treated at a clinic of their choice, in a safe and secure manner, at the time when their treatment is needed'.
Currently, there is a UK-wide shortage of sperm donors, meaning patients can face lengthy waiting lists, risk unregulated alternatives, look for donors abroad or cease treatment altogether. It is hoped that the new service will help to alleviate these problems.
Natasha Canfer, NGDT trustee, has previously spoken of the need to improve the infrastructure of the British donor service (see BioNews 764). 'In the UK, until now, with the exception of a handful of clinics, recruiting donors on a small scale just hasn't been working'. She believes that the centre will 'undoubtedly benefit thousands of patients affected by infertility... it is also set to improve the way sperm donors are treated'.
As part of an article with the headline 'NHS to fund sperm bank for lesbians' in the Mail on Sunday, the Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali wrote: 'This bank will allow women to choose from profiles of donors, which will include educational attainment and "attractiveness" criteria, raising the spectre of "designer babies", born to the parents' specifications'. The article provoked a strong reaction on Twitter, with many condemning the newspaper's angle.
Laura Witjens, chief executive of the NGDT, tweeted: 'Meanwhile, in the midst of all the media hype, we just focus on putting up a national service for ALL patients otherwise remaining childless'.