The bid to boost local donations is accompanying the launch of a sperm bank at Manchester's St. Mary's Hospital this month. The hospital successfully competed against other licensed fertility clinics to host the centre, which is a pilot for a national sperm donation scheme that aims to increase UK donations. If the pilot is successful, it may lead to the establishment of a 'regional hub and spoke' system for sperm donation similar to the national blood donation service, The Times newspaper reports. Demand for sperm donations outweighs supply in the UK and a fall in donations has led fertility clinics to buy sperm abroad, and couples to travel to other countries or to advertise on the Internet for donors, according to newspaper reports.
According to Professor Daniel Brison from the regional IVF unit, the pilot will have three components: 'Firstly, we will set up a system where donors are able to go to their local hospitals to donate sperm, which will then be delivered by couriers to St Mary's to be analysed and frozen'.
'This will assist donors greatly as normally they have to make about 25 visits to hospital'.
'Secondly, we can provide other fertility units with sperm at cost'.
'Finally, an advertising campaign will be used in a bid to recruit more donors in the North West. If the scheme works, it will be set up in other areas of the UK'.
The advertising campaign is focusing on sporting events because, according to Professor Brison, they are a good place to find men who might be inclined to donate sperm. Manchester is well known for its two football teams and cricket team, he told the Manchester Evening News. 'Approaching sports fans at football and cricket matches in Manchester is a way of accessing large numbers of men', he told The Times. 'We might also get support from the sports clubs themselves. The idea is to make it easier to donate', he added.
The pilot scheme follows recommendations by the British Fertility Society that the Department of Health should fund a national sperm donation programme. A department spokesperson said: 'The number of donors is improving in the UK, but there is still a shortage of sperm. We are funding a project which will pilot a model for managing sperm donation, to illustrate ways in which more effective and efficient use of available resources can be made'.