This week at the Progress Educational Trust (1 July 2019)
The Progress Educational Trust (PET)'s Director Sarah Norcross is in the news this week, welcoming the fact that a handful of England's clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are lifting or reconsidering restrictions on the availability of publicly funded IVF.
Sarah is quoted in the Observer, speaking in her capacity as Co-Chair of the campaigning organisation Fertility Fairness. She says that these recent CCG decisions 'are steps in the right direction for NHS fertility services in England after substantial disinvestment over the last two-and-a-half years, with one in five CCGs slashing services'.
The Observer article also links to an earlier piece from PET's flagship publication BioNews, written by the charity's Head of Communications Dr Catherine Hill. This piece reveals that Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price has written to all CCGs, urging them to comply with official guidance and thereby end the IVF 'postcode lottery'.
This is consistent with a statement made by Jackie Doyle-Price in Parliament last year, after she met with Sarah Norcross to discuss the IVF funding situation. On that occasion, she told the House of Commons: 'I am very cross that CCGs tend to view IVF services as low-hanging fruit with which to make cuts. That is totally unacceptable and I will be taking steps to remind them of that.'
Sarah has made several media appearances in recent months discussing this issue. She is quoted in a report by the Health Service Journal on data obtained by the Fertility Fairness campaign, which points to inefficiencies in the way CCGs commission IVF. She is also quoted in the Guardian and in the Daily Telegraph, criticising the widening disparity between access to IVF in England and in the rest of the UK.
More recently, Sarah has been busy in Vienna, at the Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE).
PET/BioNews Science Editor Shaoni Bhattacharya accompanied Sarah to this event, which sees more than 12,000 attendees from more than 130 countries come together to discuss reproductive medicine and science.
Sarah gave two presentations at ESHRE. First, she spoke - alongside the noted author, broadcaster and academic Professor Timothy Caulfield - at an afternoon session entitled 'Navigating Between Hope and Hype in Science Communication' (pictured below). Then, she was the main speaker at an evening event hosted by CooperSurgical, where her presentation was entitled 'Cinderella: A Poor Prognosis Patient'.
Besides coverage of ESHRE, recent weeks have also seen BioNews celebrate its 20th birthday and publish its 1000th weekly edition.
To join PET in marking this grand occasion, download and print out this 'BioNews 1000' sign, and then take a photo of yourself (and/or your friends, family or colleagues) holding it. Please then share your pictures on social media with the hashtag #BioNews1000.
BioNews readers across the world, from all professions and walks of life, have been doing this - as can be seen here. It's not too late to join in! And don't forget that you can subscribe to BioNews for free here.
Alongside the celebrations, PET has launched a '1000 x £10.00 (or '1000 tenners') Appeal'. The charity is asking you and all of its readers to please donate at least £10, to help BioNews continue as a free service for another 1000 editions.
In other news, PET has launched a new Press Office section of this website, where you can find all of the press releases and statements that the charity has issued in recent weeks.
Some of these press releases concern PET's public events, the most recent of which - 'Anonymous No More? Donor Conception and Direct-to-Consumer DNA Testing' - received advance coverage in the Daily Mail.
The same event was also the subject of a 20-minute item on the Emma Barnett Show on BBC Radio 5 Live, where Sarah Norcross was interviewed alongside one of the panel speakers. You can listen to the item here (it begins at the 0:39:48 mark).
Besides the topics discussed above, there are many other ways that PET and its representatives have been making an impact in 2019.
The BBC News article - and a related HuffPost article - discussed Sarah meeting with Jackie Doyle-Price and with Crossbench Peer Baroness Ruth Deech, to discuss problems resulting from the storage limit.
Genomics England was originally established by the UK Government to deliver the 100,000 Genomes Project, and is now helping to build the UK's new NHS Genomic Medicine Service. PET has produced many public events and initiatives with Genomics England, including the 'Genomics Conversation' series of films.
Also in February, PET's Deputy Director Sandy Starr gave a lecture on 'Genetics, Education and Intelligence' to the Academy of Ideas Education Forum. His 20-minute lecture is available to listen to as a podcast here.
In March, Sarah Norcross was quoted by CNN, by Reuters and by the Daily Mail, criticising a proposal for a moratorium on the clinical use of germline genome editing in humans. Sarah argued that such a moratorium 'is neither necessary nor useful'.
The following day, there was an article in the Independent about a PET event held in Birmingham, entitled 'Talking Genomics with Patients'.
April saw the publication of the report A Public Dialogue on Genomic Medicine: Time for a New Social Contract?, which was commissioned by Genomics England and produced by Ipsos MORI.
Sarah Norcross was a member of the Oversight Group that worked on this report, while Sandy Starr participated in a Genomics Summit which also fed into the report.
Also in June, a consultation paper produced by the Law Commissions of England and Wales and of Scotland cited a keynote presentation that Sir James Munby - former President of the Family Division of the High Court of Justice - gave at PET's most recent Annual Conference.
The new paper accompanies the Commissions' current consultation on surrogacy law reform. The fact that this consultation was due to be launched was announced by Professor Nick Hopkins, the Law Commissioner responsible for Surrogacy, when he spoke on the panel at this year's PET event 'How Can We Make Surrogacy Law Deliver?'.
Finally, PET has announced preliminary details of its next Annual Conference, which is taking place in London all day on Wednesday 4 December 2019. The theme of this year's conference is 'Reality Check'.
Further details will be announced shortly. In the meantime, please save the date and email firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest.