Chair's Letters - CH(02)01 - Witnessing of Clinical and Laboratory Procedures

Dear Colleague, 

Witnessing of Clinical and Laboratory Procedures

The HFEA has recently carried out a review of Centres' procedures for witnessing clinical and laboratory practices in light of investigations into discrepancies in the storage of gametes and embryos at two licensed centres, and the report of incidents to the HFEA.

As a consequence of this review, the Authority has decided to issue guidance on witnessing clinical and laboratory practices. All licensed Centres are required to have procedures in place to double-check the identification of:

  • the individuals undergoing treatment,
  • the sperm and eggs at the time of insemination;
  • the embryos and the patient at the time of embryo transfer;
  • the gametes and embryos at the time of cryopreservation and thawing.

The core standards required for witnessing clinical and laboratory practices are attached to this letter at Annex A. All licensed Centres should introduce these standards into their work practice from 1st October 2002. In addition Centres are required to document all witnessing procedures in the patient's medical records. Directions instructing Centres to this effect are also enclosed with this letter (attached at Annex B).

Monitoring of a Centre's witnessing procedures will be carried out through the HFEA's inspection process and this policy will be formalised in the next edition of the HFEA's Code of Practice (6th Edition).

If you have any queries with regard to this new policy please get in touch with Dr Chris O'Toole on 020 7539 3324, or by e-mail at

Yours faithfully,

Suzi Leather
Chair HFEA

Page last updated: 14 April 2009