As this week's BioNews reports, IVF (in vitro fertilisation) clinics in the UK could face a huge increase in the cost of being licensed to offer services to the general public. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is set to reorganise its fee structure in order to raise an extra £2.5 million each year to cover increased operating costs.
Not surprisingly, the proposals, which are the subject of an HFEA consultation, have not been warmly welcomed by clinics. Licensed clinics already pay a small set-up and annual license fee, plus £40 per IVF cycle performed in the clinic. In order to minimise the impact upon treatment prices to patients, the HFEA has proposed a massive increase in the set-up and annual licensing fees, whilst keeping the IVF cycle fee at much the same level.
License fees have always been a bone of contention amongst UK IVF clinics. Part of the criticism has been that because most IVF treatment cycles are not provided by the NHS (so patients must pay for treatment themselves), any increased costs to the clinic will be passed onto patients in the form of a treatment price rise.
For a private clinic charging patients for treatment, any increase in costs is likely to be passed onto patients, regardless of whether the cost is associated with running the clinic or with the cost of providing that particular treatment cycle. The HFEA's efforts to minimise the impact on patients of license fee increases for clinics is a noble one. But whether the proposed fee changes will have the desired effect remains to be seen.