What is happening?
Following many recent requests from patients we have reviewed main official documents referring to the IVF treatment at this time.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate in the UK, many NHS services are being downsized or suspended. Unfortunately, it has been announced that all fertility treatment (NHS and private) will be as stopped as of 15 April 2020. We understand that this must be incredibly disheartening to hear for those beginning, continuing, or planning to undertake fertility treatment.
In accordance to the Directions, clinics plan to stop treatments over the next three weeks, so that patients are able to complete any cycle they have started. As of now, it is not known how long these Directions will remain in force, as this is dependent on Government guidance on restrictions. We understand that this uncertainty may add additional stress and anxiety to an already challenging situation. Please look under the sub-heading: Additional Support for resources intended to provide support and guidance for managing this challenging time for you.
Moving forward, any decisions to re-open fertility clinics will be evaluated by UK professional fertility societies, such as The British Fertility Society and The Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists. They will have to evaluate the impact re-opening would have on NHS services and ensure that clinics are able to operate safely to protect the health of their patients and staff. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is working on an exit strategy so that fertility treatment can resume as soon as possible when Government restrictions on travel and contact are lifted.
In line with the Directions to suspend fertility treatments, it has also been requested that all centres have put measures in place to keep patients informed of any changes to treatment plans, the reasons for these, as well as some mechanism of support for patients who have concerns or require support. Furthermore, we recommend you do try to maintain contact with your fertility clinic in order to understand the changes to your treatments and to be contactable when treatment can resume.
Dr Marta Jansa Perez, Director of Embryology at The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) commented in a statement that the decision to close fertility services was to “enable fertility professionals to deal with the current pandemic, to reduce the spread of the infection, and to avoid unsafe care due to staff shortages rather than because of any concerns about the impact of the virus on pregnant women and their babies. There is no evidence that Coronavirus presents a specific harm to pregnancies, and there is no evidence to suggest that becoming pregnant during this time would be unsafe.”
See Dr Marta Jansa Perez’s full statement here: https://www.bpas.org/about-our-charity/press-office/press-releases/bpas-comment-on-the-suspension-of-fertility-services/
Lastly, many women may be worried about how the pandemic will affect the funding that has been put in place for their fertility treatment. If your clinic does not contact you about this, we recommend that you contact your local commissioning group for more information: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/other-services/Clinical-Commissioning-Group/LocationSearch/1
Linked below, is an open letter to fertility patients, written by Sally Cheshire CBE, the chair of the HFEA
Furthermore, the UK Fertility Network is offering support lines, which is open from 10am-4pm Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. They have also moved all support groups online and provide general support and guidance on their website.