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One In 100 Experience ‘Adverse Incidents’ At IVF Fertility Clinics

Removing frozen sperm from storage while still within the consent period and using the wrong donor sperm were just some of the incidents at fertility clinics recorded by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) between 2010 and 2012.

The HFEA has published its report into ‘averse incidents’ as part of its ongoing commitment to collaborating with clinics in improving the patient’s experience of IVF.

The report, reveals that over 1,600 incidents were reported over this timeframe, with the majority classed as less serious ‘grade C’ incidents.

A Grade C incident involve situations like one of many eggs rendered unusable during processing (for example the moving of an egg between dishes), or a patient developing mild Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS).

There were 714 Grade B incidents, including the loss of embryos, and only three Grade A incidents – the most serious. These include a patient being implanted with an embryo intended for someone else.

This means that on average 500-600 reported incidents per year are reported out of more than 60,000 cycles of IVF treatment, or approximately 1 in 100.

A breakdown of figures for total incidents reported in each of the last three years shows that the rate remains steady.

Despite the incidents recorded, HFEA Chair Sally Cheshire believes the clinics are doing a ‘good job’, saying, ‘These results show that, in the main, clinics are doing a good job of minimising the number of serious errors, and this should be welcomed. In my experience clinic staff are highly professional and they hold the patient’s welfare in the highest regard.

‘While we do what we can to ensure IVF is error free, mistakes do sometimes happen, as they do in any area of medicine. What’s most important is learning the lessons from errors made to minimise the chance of their happening again – this is not about naming and shaming.’

She states, however, that too many Grade C mistakes are being made, such as breaches of confidentiality.

‘Clinics can and should be eradicating these sorts of avoidable errors, which will go a long way towards reducing patient distress and improving the overall experience of IVF treatment.’

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