Sub-standard fertility clinics refused licences (CORRECTED)

CORRECTION (PUBLISHED 2 JULY 1992) APPENDED TO THIS ARTICLE

A FERTILITY clinic has been closed by the new fertilisation authority because it was using 'fresh' sperm without testing the male donors for HIV infection.

Professor Colin Campbell, chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, launching the first annual report, said that the authority had refused licences at four centres - two for clinics and two for research projects because standards fell too far short of its good practice codes.

Some of the 157 centres that applied for a licence under the new Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 were given provisional licences on the basis that they improved less serious deficiencies, he said.

When all clinics and research centres have been visited and assessed by the end of this month Professor Campbell said he would consider naming clinics that had been found to be unfit and forbidden from offering fertility treatments. He also made it clear that the authority, set up with statutory powers under the 1990 Act, intended to use them to the full.

Professor Campbell said that he was prepared to publish a league table of British fertility clinics showing success rates, if the information they were able to gather was of sufficient quality to produce reliable comparisons.

'First we must look at the data and see if it is good enough so that it might be possible to say something sensible about success rates given different centres and different treatments,' he said.

Professor Campbell said that the new regulations which control the clinics and research centres already meant that Britain offered the best service in the world to infertile couples.

The annual report gives the latest rates for successful births for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and again shows that the largest clinics do best, albeit with wide variations. The overall success rate for 1990 was 12.5 per cent, producing 1,443 babies.

Again the statistics showed that a woman's chances of having a baby reduced dramatically with age. They fell from about 20 per cent between the ages of 25 and 34 to about 7 per cent in the 40 to 44 age group.

But in the over 45 age group, while about 5 per cent of women achieved pregnancy not one managed to have a baby.

The report says: 'Between all clinics there is a very wide variation in success rates with a range in medium and large centres of between 21 and 23.3 live births per 100 treatment cycles.'

Flora Goldhill, chief executive of the authority, said that it already supplied members of the public with basic information about fertility clinics and advised them what questions they should ask when considering treatment, so they could make proper comparisons.

She said that the authority encouraged the clinics to give clear information about their success rates.

The authority also 'borrowed' good practices and ideas from the best clinics, in order to bring others up, she said.

Professor Campbell said there were some early signs that the numbers of men who were prepared to donate sperm was decreasing, possibly because of fears that they might be identified in the future.

But Ms Goldhill said that the confidentiality provisions of the Act could be made retrospective.

CORRECTION

In an article on the annual report of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority in yesterday's Independent it was incorrectly stated that provisions under the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Act 1990 could be made retrospective. The Act has been framed so that its provisions cannot be made retrospective.

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