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Our State of the sector report for 2018 - 2019

Fertility treatment is becoming safer as we find improvements in UK clinics

Our State of the sector report for 2018 -2019 reveals that fertility treatment is becoming safer with the quality of care improving across UK clinics. 

The report shows that around 80% of clinics were issued with a full licence, confirming that most clinics are meeting expected standards and are performing well. The number of non-compliances per inspection have decreased each year since 2015/16 and over half of clinics had fewer areas of concern compared to their previous inspection. Multiple births, the single biggest health risk from IVF, also reached an all-time low of 10%, while patient complaints about clinics decreased. Clinic and quality management, which includes the safe use of equipment, as well as the processing and use of eggs, sperm and embryos has seen improvements according to the report.

Sally Cheshire CBE, our chair, said:

“I’m pleased that this report indicates continued good performance across the UK fertility sector. Significant improvements in some of the key areas we’ve highlighted previously with clinics are especially reassuring, proving that working together with clinics and the professional bodies is having a positive impact for patients. One area that we focussed on during the last year is patient engagement and experience, so I’m particularly pleased that more than 75% of inspections found no non-compliances in this area and that we are moving in the right direction.”

As part of the HFEA’s commitment to open, honest and constructive regulation, the report also highlights areas of improvement. There were 351 non-compliances in 2018/19, compared to almost 400 in the previous year. These include areas such as clinic processes, which accounted for more than half and the quality management system which ensure clinical practice is continually monitored and improved.

The number of incidents reported remains low at less than 1% of all treatment cycles. Incidents fall into three categories, with this year’s report showing an increasing proportion of grade B incidents. These resulted largely from greater awareness among clinics of the need to report these.

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), a potentially serious side-effect of fresh IVF cycles, increased slightly, although this is a very small proportion of the overall number of fresh treatment cycles at 0.3%.

Sally continues:

“To make the sector even better and safer for patients there is more work to do. It’s good news that clinics have reduced the number of minor incidents, but we’re concerned that any incident is one too many. We will continue to ensure that the whole sector learns from any clinic incident, however minor, to understand what went wrong and, crucially, that steps are taken to ensure it does not happen again.

“We have done a lot of work with clinics to raise awareness of OHSS and improve the reporting of it. This provides us with a picture of what is happening at clinics.  We have taken steps to improve the way that clinics advise patients of the risks of OHSS and what a patient should do if they feel unwell. We also require clinics to work with local hospitals to ensure that any woman suffering from suspected OHSS is treated appropriately.

“Over the next year, our focus will continue to be on improving the quality of leadership in clinics, as this directly affects the quality of treatment and patient care.”

More information.

For interview requests or further information, contact the our Press Office on 020 7291 8200, or email:


Publication date: 18 December 2019

Review date: 18 December 2021