HFEA Issue Positive Report on IVF Sector

HFEA IVF safety

The HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority), has carried out its first ever report into the state of the UK’s IVF sector, and the results are extremely positive. One of its proudest achievements was the reduction in multiple birth rates for IVF patients, to just 11%.

The goal of the report was to provide both patients and IVF clinics with a clear insight into the state of the UK’s fertility sector.

Drop in multiple birth rates boosts IVF safety

The report looked at the performance of research laboratories and fertility clinics from 2016-2017. It also combined separate reports carried out previously on patient feedback, incidents and inspection findings.

One of the most positive findings included in the IVF report was the reduced multiple birth rate. The number of multiple births has been reduced from 24% in 2009, to just 11%, thanks to the work carried out between HFEA and licensed fertility clinics. Even more impressive, is the fact the multiple birth rate has reduced without affecting pregnancy or live birth rates. In fact, pregnancy rates have soared from 24% to 32% since 2008.

Reducing multiple birth rates has increased the safety of IVF patients, whilst also lowering the stress placed upon the NHS neonatal and antenatal sector.

The report also provided an insight into how many licensed fertility clinics were currently operating within the UK. It states there are a total of 132 research and treatment clinics in operation, with 34% being privately run clinics, 29% were a combination of private and public clinics, 22% were NHS only clinics, and the final 15% are research clinics.

Though largely positive, there are some areas of concern

The report did reveal mostly positive feedback, however there were some areas of concern. As the number of patients undergoing IVF has increased in recent years, so too has the number of adverse incidents.

Approximately 76,500 IVF treatments were carried out within the UK in 2016, showing an annual increase of 6%. However, it also revealed an 8.5% increase in adverse incidents. These are basically things which went wrong during the treatments. Although it is logical the number of adverse incidents would rise with a significant increase in patients, it is still something the sector needs to be aware of.

Interestingly, the number of severe, Grade B adverse incidents has dropped. It is the lesser serious Grade C incidents which have risen. There was also just one Grade A incident reported in 2016, where inadequate paperwork led a baby to be born with cystic fibrosis – a lethal disease. On the whole however, Grade A adverse incidents are extremely rare.

So, steps do need to be taken by clinics to reduce the number of Grade C adverse incidents. However, largely the sector is performing exceptionally well, and improvements are continuously being made.

This report is the first of its kind since HFEA was founded 27 years ago. It represents the sectors dedication to being as transparent as possible. The increased pregnancy rates and reduced multiple birth rates are definitely something to be celebrated.