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Fertilisation and embryology services at risk: CofE responds to Department of Health consultation

Proposals to absorb the services of two specialist health watchdogs into the Care Quality Commission to save half a million pounds per year have been criticised by the Mission and Public Affairs (MPA) Council.

In its response to a Department of Health Consultation, the MPA Council warns that "there are operational risks involved in transferring the functions" from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) as "theses functions require both considerable executive expertise and detailed non-executive scrutiny".

The response is available here.

The HFEA is the UK's independent regulator overseeing the use of gametes and embryos in fertility treatment and research; the HTA regulates organisations that remove, store and use tissue for research, medical treatment, post-mortem examination, teaching and display in public, and also gives approval for organ and bone marrow donations from living people.

The MPA Council response warns that "there are grave concerns with regard to the ability of the Care Quality Commission… to absorb the complexity and volume of the work conducted by the HFEA and HTA" and "the question then is whether savings… could really be delivered".

Recognising that the HFEA and HTA have already made 25 per cent and 27 per cent efficiency savings since 2010, the MPA Council response recommends the third of the Department of Health's three main proposed options: "The HFEA and HTA should retain their functions but deliver further savings."

It also recounts how a parliamentary review conducted between 2004 and 2008 considered a proposal to replace the HFEA and HTA with a single body, but recommended abandoning the proposal as it would lead to a significant loss of expertise, concluding that: "There has been no significant change in the roles of either the HFEA and HTA since then to suggest that a different conclusion would now be reached."

The Revd Dr Brendan McCarthy, National Adviser for Medical Ethics and Social Care Policy, said: "There is little doubt that even if the other factors did not militate against disbanding the HFEA and the HTA, the CQC is not currently equipped to take on their functions and this is not likely to change for some time to come."


Notes

A photo of the Revd Dr Brendan McCarthy is available here.