Fertility unit’s licence suspended after ‘errors’ in freezing process

A fertility clinic which admitted that “errors” in its freezing processes had led to some embryos “either not surviving or being undetectable” has had its licence suspended.

Homerton Fertility Centre in east London said it had increased security and made staff “work in pairs” after three separate incidents in the last year within the unit.

The Telegraph reported that the centre had been reported to police over fears embryos were being destroyed.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said it had suspended the centre’s licence because of “significant concerns” about the clinic and a “potential risk to patients, gametes and embryos”.

The Metropolitan Police said officers went to the centre on Friday “after concerns were raised by the Homerton Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust”.

“There is no police investigation at this time,” they added.

In a letter apologising to patients, the chief executive of Homerton Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Louise Ashley, said the centre had “re-checked all competencies of staff within the unit”.

She added: “We have now had three separate incidents in the last year within the unit, which have highlighted errors in a small number of our freezing processes.

“We have external clinical experts investigating these incidents and, whilst they have not been able to find any direct cause to explain this, we have made changes in the unit to prevent reoccurrence of such incidents.”

Ms Ashley said the HFEA had suspended the clinic’s licence until May 2024.

Peter Thompson, chief executive of the HFEA, said: “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 HFEA is the UK’s independent regulator of fertility treatment and research using human embryos.

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