The UK Government has launched a consultation
on the future of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and
Human Tissue Authority (HTA) amid proposals to transfer the regulators'
The UK-wide consultation asks for views on whether the HFEA and HTA should be abolished and the regulator's
responsibilities reallocated to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), with the
HFEA's research functions transferred to the newly formed Health Research
Authority — or if some functions should be transferred to organisations other
than the CQC. It also asks for views on whether the HFEA and HTA should continue
to retain their functions, with further cost-savings made.
Health minister Earl Frederick Howe said the consultation is part of the
Government's overall programme to streamline arm's-length bodies, which is hoped
will deliver savings of over £180 million by 2015.
'Services must be delivered in the
most efficient way possible. By making sure that the right functions are being
carried out at the appropriate level, we will free up savings to support
front-line NHS services', he said.
The Public Bodies Act empowers the UK Government to dismantle
the HFEA and the HTA and to transfer the regulators' functions to other bodies.
A recent report, however, questioned the readiness of the CQC to take on
the HFEA's functions, highlighting shortcomings in its performance (reported in
BioNews 651) and there has been concern expressed over the proposals. During the debate of the Public Bodies Bill (as it then was) in the House of Commons, MPs Frank Dobson, Jon Trickett and
Valerie Vaz emphasised the role
of the HFEA and HTA in upholding public confidence and undertaking important work.
However, amid the controversy
surrounding funding cuts in fertility treatment in various parts of the UK, the
move to consider areas where cost savings can be made has also
Commenting on the consultation, Dr
Allan Pacey, chairman of the British Fertility Society (BFS) said: 'The British Fertility Society is absolutely
committed to upholding the principles enshrined in the Human Fertilisation and
Embryology Act. However, in today's difficult economic climate, it is clear
that we must take a long hard look at how the fertility sector in the UK is
regulated and see whether there are alternative models that can do this more
Dr Pacey said the BFS will consult with its membership before
responding to the consultation. 'Improvement in the current process of
regulation would be supported by the Society, although change for change's sake
without clear evidence of benefit would not', he added.
The consultation is open for responses until 28
September. Earl Howe said 'any final decisions will be taken after we have
fully considered the consultation responses, evidence and other relevant