Sir: While agreeing with some of Professor Robert Winston's views in the comment section, ("NHS patients deserve the best," 6 October), may we take issue with the example he chose to use. Had Professor Winston's aim been to illustrate, rather than to denigrate, then perhaps he would have been more accurate. The Assisted Conception Unit at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, recently licensed by the government-appointed body the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority (HFEA), is run by four consultants, each with a special interest in an aspect of fertility treatment. Collectively, they have established and run a fertility clinic for over 25 years, currently run one of the most successful IVF clinics in the country (which has pioneered several fertility treatments), and have extensive experience in reproductive endocrinology and male factor infertility. Thus it is not only our view, but also that of the HFEA, that this unit has the ability to provide a truly comprehensive fertility service.
The tenor of Professor Winston's article reflects the sad state that the competitive market in the NHS has reduced us to. The Assisted Conception Unit was not set up to make a profit, as implied by Professor Winston, rather it was established because so many of our patients were having to wait for so long for IVF. Until recently this may have been up to four years on the NHS. This left them little choice but to go to private clinics and pay in the region of pounds 2,000 per treatment cycle. This both we and our patients found distressing.
We wished to establish a unit with an empathetic and caring environment. To this end we plan to limit the size of the clinic, to treat only those eligible for NHS care, either funded by their DHA or self-funded at "cost price".
We would want to regard those working in the Fertility Clinic at the Hammersmith Hospital as colleagues and friends with the best interests of patients at heart and not as competitors. We would hope that this feeling is reciprocated.
Michael E. Pawson
Mark R. Johnson
Hossam I. Abdalla
Jonathan W. Ramsay
Assisted Conception Unit
Chelsea and Westminster