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NHS fertility centre’s licence suspended after ‘errors’ led to loss of embryos

NHS fertility centre’s licence suspended after ‘errors’ led to loss of embryos

A fertility clinic in London has had its licence to operate suspended due to “significant concerns”.

The fertility regulator has prevented Homerton Fertility Centre from starting any new procedures while an investigation is carried out.

The clinic, based near Hackney, which provides treatment to both NHS and private patients, found three separate incidents over the past year that have seen errors in a small number of freezing processes.

These errors led to a few embryos becoming undetectable - unable to be found in the liquid they had been frozen in - or not surviving.

A small number of embryos did not survive or became undetectable (AP/stock image)
A small number of embryos did not survive or became undetectable (AP/stock image)

In a letter to patients on Friday, chief executive of the Homerton Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust Louise Ashley, said: “I would like to apologise to those affected and for the concern this may cause you even if you, your eggs, embryos or sperm are unaffected.

“I felt, however, that it was essential to keep you fully updated as soon as possible. We have and continue to be working alongside the fertility regulator and are keeping them fully appraised of the situation.

“They have made provisions within the suspension for all current patients who are undergoing treatment to complete their treatment and for all eggs, embryos and sperm to continue to be stored in the clinic.”

The clinic, based near Hackney, found three separate incidents over the past year that have seen errors in a small number of freezing processes (AP/stock image)
The clinic, based near Hackney, found three separate incidents over the past year that have seen errors in a small number of freezing processes (AP/stock image)

The affected patients have already been informed and the clinic’s licence has been suspended until May. People who have started treatment cycles can however continue.

If you have been affected by this incident, contact lydia.patrick@independent.co.uk

One patient told the BBC she was “devastated” after she was told one of her embryos could not be found.

The clinic said all its staff now work in pairs to ensure two healthcare professionals check all clinical activities, and the competencies of all staff within the unit have been checked. Security and access points in the clinic have also been increased.

Peter Thompson, the chief executive of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), told The Independent: “The HFEA has suspended Homerton Fertility Centre’s licence to operate with immediate effect, due to significant concerns about the clinic.

“The HFEA Licence Committee made this decision because of the potential risk to patients, gametes and embryos if the clinic’s licence is not suspended with immediate effect.

“We appreciate this may cause concern to patients who are undergoing treatment at the clinic, or have eggs, sperm and/or embryos stored there. We do not want to disrupt patients’ treatment if they have already started medication as part of a treatment cycle, so we have made provisions to allow them to complete their treatment if they wish to do so.

“The clinic must continue to store eggs, sperm, and embryos safely. All HFEA licensed clinics can be found here and they will be able to advise patients further on transporting their eggs, sperm or embryos if they would like to do so.”

The Metropolitan Police confirmed it attended Homerton Fertility Clinic on Friday but there is currently no investigation taking place.