The UK is known for having a highly regulated IVF industry. In 1990 the House of Parliament passed the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. A critical part of that legislation was the establishment of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, also known as the HFEA.
The HFEA is the independent regulator and was the first statutory body of its kind in the world. The HFEA is responsible for licensing fertility centres that carry out IVF and other forms of assisted reproductive technology. They also oversee all research on human embryos.
As a regulator they conduct inspections and provide unbiased information, including clinic success rates, to the public. This information can help you choose a fertility clinic, which you can find out more about here Download the 3 C’s of Choosing a Fertility Clinic.
The HFEA has established, and updates, a Code of Practice to help licenced centres comply with the Act.
Does the HFEA publish their inspection reports?
Yes, clinics are inspected every 1 to 4 years based on a variety of factors. These include their success rates, their lab protocols, their patient confidentiality process.
In order to maintain a licence, they will be inspected on a wide variety of points outlined in the HFEA Code of Practice. The HFEA publish their inspection report on the Choose a Fertility Clinic section of their website.
Does the HFEA publish a league table?
No, the HFEA publishes the success rates of each clinic independently. This includes the actual number of treatment cycles the clinic carried out and how many of those cycles resulted in a live birth.
They also publish whether the clinic’s success rate is above, below or in line with the national average. Check out our advice on success rates here.
Does the HFEA get information about my treatment?
The HFEA is required by law to keep a Register of information which records details of all regulated assisted reproduction treatment services in the UK.
The HFEA has recorded this information since August 1991, which is the date the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 came into force.
The Act requires your clinic to submit certain information about you and your treatment to the Register.
The Act also requires your clinic to obtain properly informed consent from you before they store or use your eggs, sperm or embryos in treatment.
Is the HFEA part of Government?
The HFEA is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department of Health. This means it has a role in the process of national government but is not part of a government department. This gives the HFEA greater independence as it operates at arm’s length from the Minister of Health.
So what does this mean for you?
From time to time you will read alarming stories as a result of IVF treatment, such as the wrong donor sperm being used or a woman having octuplets. Thanks to the HFEA these cases are not in the UK as many of the riskier practices are outlawed here.
By publishing clinic inspection reports the HFEA also ensure the public can review a clinic’s compliance with the Code of Practice.