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Fertility Treatment Waiting Times Halve After Increased Payments to Donors

by Rebecca SmithThe Telegraph (UK)
November 26th, 2012

Many couples were faced with waits or two or more years with hundreds forced abroad for expensive and risky treatment where regulations are not as strict.

On October last year the fertility regulator changed the payment system to egg donors so they received a lump sum of almost £750.

A survey of fertility clinics carried out by the Telegraph has found that the average waiting time has now halved compared with the previous system when expenses and loss of earnings payments were capped at £250.

Experts said there is no longer any need for any British patient to travel abroad for donor egg treatment as many clinics have no waiting list at all.

The Telegraph conacted a total of 97 clinics were contacted and 37 responded.

The results showed that the average waiting time before October 2011 was 13.1 months compared with 6.75 months this October.

The longest waiting time before the change was two years and the shortest afterwards was none, meaning women could be matched with donors immediately.

Before the changes clinics had on average 51 couples waiting for fertility treatment with donor eggs compared with 24 this October.

The Care fertilty group, which is the biggest provider of private fertility treatment in Britain, reported an 18-month waiting time before the changes were brought in and now can match women to donors immediately.

Prof Simon Fishel, managing director of Care, said: "This is really is good news for recipients.

"That the overall wait in the UK has halved is, indeed, only half the story – some clinics that had a couple of years or more wait still have long waiting lists even though theirs are significantly reduced.

"But for Care, we have always been proactive in recruiting donors, and the HFEA increased payment was not only very welcome, it helped Care ensure we could bring many donors to our clinics.

"So many of these wonderful women have now come forward that we can proudly say, at last, that there is no waiting at all for donor eggs at any of our clinics.

"Those women, the ‘recipients’ can move ahead with treatment without necessitating them considering going abroad to unregulated clinics in unregulated countries from where, sadly and worryingly, we hear too many stories of problems and malpractice."

Some clinics avoided waiting lists before the changes by sending women requiring donor eggs to allied clinics abroad.

The survey results also showed that most clinics reported that the type of women willing to donate their eggs has remained the same, those having fertility treatment themselves who donate in return for a discount, or women who have already completed their families.

However some reported that more altruistic donors under the age of 35 both childless and with their own families have come forward since the changes.

Official figures on the numbers of donors since the changes will not be available from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for another six months to a year.

Mrs Alison McTavish, Secretary of the British Fertility Society said: “The introduction of compensation to women who donate their eggs to help those with infertility may have had an impact on the waiting time for couples requiring this form of family building in some areas of the country.

"Whilst donation is an altruistic act, the compensation of £750 does recognise the commitment and investment in time and effort a donor has to undertake.

"Egg donation requires careful consideration, and whilst it brings joy to many couples, the child conceived should be the focus of the treatment.

"All treatment must take place in licensed clinics where donors and recipients should make full use of counselling sessions to explore all aspects of this procedure.

"We will need more comprehensive studies to properly assess the impact of the recent changes to compensation, but until then we hope that women will continue to consider donating their eggs in order to help others to start a family.”

A spokesman for the HFEA said: "The HFEA ‘Donating sperm and eggs: have your say’ public consultation ran from January until April 2011. It sought public opinion about the changing landscape of donation.

"More than 2400 surveys were completed over the four months and the HFEA used the findings to launch new policies addressing the concerns about treating donors fairly and valuing their contribution.

"One of the main changes to arise from the consultation was the increase in egg donor compensation. Previously capped at £250 (plus expenses), clinics are now able to offer up to £750 (inclusive of expenses) per cycle of donation.

"We are pleased that the number of people donating eggs and sperm has increased, which in turn has decreased the waiting time for patients.

"However, we cannot verify these numbers. Our aim in developing the new policy on donor compensation was not to induce people to donate but to make the process simpler, treat donors fairly and to make them feel valued.

"Therefore, we should not assume that the increase in donor compensation is the only reason for an increase in donor numbers”.



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