The UK's Department of Health has published a report of its inquiry into the circumstances surrounding a number of IVF mix-ups, one of which led to mixed-race twins being born to a white couple. Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, commissioned Professor Brian Toft, in July 2002, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the sperm mix-up and three other adverse events that occurred at assisted reproduction units in the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS trust, West Yorkshire.
Professor Toft found that a mixture of human error, poor management and systems failures caused the adverse events. His report, which makes more than 100 recommendations for change, heavily criticised fertility services, the government and the body - the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) - that licenses and regulates the provision of fertility services in the UK.
In the report, the HFEA is accused of operating within a 'culture of secrecy', ultimately undermining its effectiveness. A number of problems with the way the authority managed itself and carried out inspections have also been identified. The government is criticised for depriving the HFEA of the funds it needs to run efficiently. Since the authority was established in 1990, the report says, there has been a large increase of the number of clinics in its remit, without a corresponding increase in the funds it receives. And the fertility centres themselves are criticised for lacking facilities and staff.
While the report includes recommendations to the Department of Health, the HFEA and the Leeds NHS Trust, Professor Toft makes clear that significant improvements have already been made since the events occurred. 'Both in the course of the review and since, the HFEA and the Leeds Trust have been addressing the concerns identified and I am confident that they are putting in place the necessary arrangements to make significant progress', he said. In a statement, the HFEA welcomed the recommendations, saying that prior to the report being published, it had already put in place 85 per cent of Professor Toft's proposals.