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New HFEA report indicates more needs to be done to reduce incidents in fertility clinics

Incidents in fertility clinics are rare - they occur in less than one percent of the treatments performed in the UK fertility clinics – but each incident is one too many.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s annual report on fertility clinic incidents shows that the total number of B and C grade incidents increased slightly from 2014 [1], at a rate which is higher than the growth in the number of fertility treatments carried out.

The report, published today, shows that, between 1 January and 31 December 2015, a total of 517 adverse incidents were reported out of approximately 72,000 treatment cycles. For the first time since the HFEA began publishing incidents reports, there were no A grade (the most serious) incidents reported at all. 

HFEA Chair Sally Cheshire called on fertility clinics to substantially reduce the rate of incidents next year. 

“The UK’s fertility sector is one of the most developed in the world, and the high level of professionalism in the sector is highlighted by both the fact that fewer than 600 incidents were reported out of more than 72,000 treatments, and that no ‘grade A’ incidents were reported in the last year. 

“We want to ensure clinics give patients the best possible treatment, so that they have the best chances of having the families they so dearly want. So, while incidents are already occurring infrequently, we want to see them reduce even further. I’m setting the challenge to all clinics in the UK to make sure that the overall number of incidents has decreased by this time next year. 

“It’s not only ‘grade A’ incidents that can have an adverse effect on patients. All incidents, whether it’s a letter sent to the wrong address, or a case of ovarian hyper-stimulation, can have serious consequences for patients, and more has got to be done to make sure that fewer people are affected in the future.”

Elsewhere, the report shows that the most common form of incidents are clinical (198), administrative (141) or occur in the laboratory (138), with a further 40 falling into none of those categories [2]. 

There was a slight increase in the number of severe ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS) cases reported. OHSS is classified as a B grade incident. 

The report can be found here:




[1] see page 4 of the report.

[2] see page 5 of the report.

Publication date: 13 April 2017

Review date: 13 April 2019