HFEA ‘State of the Fertility Sector 2021-22’ report

20 October 2022

The HFEA has recently published its annual ‘State of the Fertility Sector 2021-22’ report. Its makes for mainly positive reading in that of the 90,000 treatment and storage cycles carried out in the UK during 2021-22, less than 1 percent incurred an incident. As such, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) reports that patients can be reassured that they will receive safe and high quality care at UK fertility clinics.

The HFEA’s ‘State of the Fertility Sector 2021-22’ report largely makes positive reading in summarising the findings of the HFEA’s regulatory work during the year. The HFEA licences and regulates fertility treatment at UK fertility clinics and embryo research in the UK. It also carries out regular inspections of the 104 UK licensed fertility clinics in 2021-22, with 105 inspections carried out in total (additional inspections were undertaken where significant concerns had been identified).

Its latest 2021-22 report states that there were no Grade A incidents reported involving severe harm to one person or major harm to many people. That said, this latest report is a timely reminder that fertility treatment and assisted conception is not risk free in that:

  • Grade B incidents, involving serious harm to one person, or moderate harm to many, remained consistent with previous years.
  • There were 66 cases of severe and critical ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) reported by UK fertility clinics, representing 0.1 percent of cycles.

Its 2021-22 report also provides insight into the nature of fertility treatment delivery in the UK, reporting:

  • 60 percent of UK fertility clinics were privately owned, an increase from 59 percent the previous year (although most clinics treat both NHS and privately funded fertility patients).
  • The largest concentration of fertility clinics remains in London where there were 33 clinics.
  • The next largest concentration of fertility clinics was in the North West and South East, which each had 10 clinics.
  • Northern Ireland had the smallest number of fertility clinics, decreasing from four to three during 2021-22.

The HFEA received 76 patient complaints during 2021-22, raising concerns about care, communication and lack of satisfactory response to an initial complaint by UK fertility clinics. The HFEA does not have a statutory duty to investigate patient complaints unless they highlight a serious breach of the HFE Act or Licence Conditions. However, it states that patients and donors can raise a complaint with them if they are dissatisfied with the way their clinic handled their original complaint and that they will actively monitor and investigate information they receive from patient complaints and feed this into their inspection process. The report states that it will discuss complaints with the clinic and encourage further engagement between the clinic and the patient to try to resolve the issue. Complaints are also discussed at regular clinical governance meetings to seek to ensure that clinics are engaging with patient complaints and providing well considered responses which acknowledge the patient’s experience, explains what went wrong, what measures the clinic has implemented to minimize the issue arising again and what support the clinic can offer the patient.

Specialist Fertility and Family Law Advice

It is also important to bear in mind that family building, together with assisted conception and later-life parenthood, can raise complex legal and wider issues due to complex legal frameworks and the challenges of day-to-day life. Bespoke expert fertility and family law advice helps effectively navigate your family building journey. It also enables you to identify, understand and proactively manage a range of legal and wider issues and risks, place your family building and life on a firm foundation and get the best outcome. In doing so, it can address:

  • Legal issues and options where women and men face impaired fertility or lost fertility due to cancer diagnosis or other illness, unsuccessful conception attempts, change in gender, change in personal circumstances, delayed parenthood (e.g. fertility preservation and maximisation, management of existing personal relationships and implications of using donor gametes and fertility treatment).
  • Legal issues and options associated with assisted conception involving a known donor, co-parent or surrogate (e.g. legal parentage, parental rights, financial responsibility and dispute mitigation).
  • Legal parentage issues and disputes (e.g. concerning DNA testing, direct-to-consumer genetic testing, rectification of birth certificate, declaration of parentage, step-parent adoption, recognition of overseas adoption, parental order following surrogacy).
  • Care and upbringing of children following a dispute with an ex-partner, parent, donor or surrogate (e.g. contact, residence, financial arrangements, parental responsibility, specific issue or prohibited steps).
  • Difficulties with storage and use of frozen eggs, sperm and embryos in fertility treatment in the UK (e.g. problems with consent).
  • Issues associated with import of frozen gametes and embryos into the UK for use in fertility treatment and surrogacy (e.g. due to anonymous and commercially obtained gametes and embryos which engage UK public policy restrictions).
  • Issues concerning the export of frozen gametes and embryos abroad for use in fertility treatment and surrogacy (e.g. consent and storage term difficulties).
  • Unexpected death of a loved-one and related issues associated with posthumous storage and use of eggs, sperm and embryos in fertility treatment (e.g. due to an accident or illness).
  • Claims for fertility treatment, donor conception and surrogacy within complex medical negligence cases.

Need a fertility lawyer or a family lawyer? If you would like to discuss your situation or you require specialist fertility and family law advice and assistance please contact Louisa Ghevaert by email or by telephone +44 (0)20 7965 8399.

Click here to read the HFEA’s published annual ‘State of the Fertility Sector 2021-22’ report.

In the News

Father and toddler

Twitter updates

Follow Louisa on Twitter for latest industry updates

Read More

Our latest news

Read our news on fertility & modern family law

Read More

Our blog

Louisa discusses her opinion on different topics

Read More