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The HFEA publish annual 'State of the Fertility Sector' report

Patients can be reassured of safe fertility care, says UK fertility regulator

Patients being treated by UK licensed fertility clinics continue to receive safe, high-quality care, new information published by the UK’s fertility regulator has confirmed.

The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority’s (HFEA) State of the Fertility Sector 2021-22 report reveals that of the 90,000 treatment and storage cycles carried out each year, less than 1% incurred an incident. It also found that there were no ‘Grade A’ incidents, which are the most severe type of incident, in the last year.

The annual report summarises HFEA inspection work for 2021-22 as well as information recorded in incident reports, on its Register of fertility treatments and through patient feedback mechanisms.

Peter Thompson, Chief Executive at the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), said: “Patients can be reassured that UK clinics continue to provide safe and high-quality care, with our findings confirming that the risk of being involved in an incident is very low.

“Clinics receive regular updates from the HFEA that help them prevent poor quality care. However, on the rare occasion when an incident does arise, they are taken extremely seriously by the HFEA. We have a rigorous process for reporting, handling, and investigating adverse incidents, allowing clinics to learn from them and ensure changes can be made to prevent a reoccurrence. We can also take enforcement action if necessary to amend, suspend or revoke a clinic’s licence.”

The State of the Fertility Sector 2021-22 report, which provides a high-level overview of sector-wide compliance, reporting on the number of inspections, non-compliances, incidents and complaints, found that:

  • Almost 90,000 treatment and storage cycles were carried during 2021-22 (similar to previous years) and less than 1% of these cycles resulted in problems occurring.
  • In 2021-22, there were 66 cases of severe and critical OHSS reported by UK clinics, accounting for less than 0.1% of cycles.
  • The number of inspections increased from 77 in 2020-21 to 105 in 2021-22, due to those deferred during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 231 non-compliances identified on inspection; only 4% were critical, highlighting the high quality of care provided by clinics within the UK.
  • Grade B incidents remain consistent with previous years, and no Grade A incidents occurred in 2021-22, nor in 2020-21
  • The number of formal patient complaints received in 2021-22 was 76, which has decreased since the previous year. This may be in part due to continued HFEA support and guidance to ensure that wherever possible clinics engage with the complaint to resolve the problem before there is an escalation to a formal complaint.

The HFEA is the independent regulator of fertility treatment and human embryo research in the UK. It aims to ensure that everyone receives high quality care in a licenced fertility clinic by licensing, monitoring and inspecting fertility clinics clinics - and taking enforcement action where necessary - and providing free, clear and impartial information about fertility treatment, clinics, and egg, sperm and embryo donation.

You can view the ‘State of the Fertility Sector 2021-22’ report on the HFEA’s website.


For more information or for interviews with a HFEA spokesperson, please contact or call 020 7291 8226.

For out of hours requests, please call the duty press officer on 07771 981920.

Notes to editors

  • The Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the availability of fertility treatment in 2020/21 and this, combined with the changes made to the HFEA inspection approach during the year, means that data in this report is not directly comparable with previous years. It should be interpreted with caution.
  • Incidents are graded as:
    • Grade A: involve severe harm to one person, or major harm to many
    • Grade B: involves serious harm to one person, or moderate harm to many
    • Grade C: involves minor harm
    • Near miss: an event not causing harm but has the potential to cause injury or ill health.
  • For more information about the HFEA regulatory response to COVID-19 and the subsequent changes made to inspections, read the Impact of COVID-19 on fertility treatment 2020 report and the State of the fertility sector 2020/21.

About the HFEA

  • The HFEA is the UK’s independent regulator of fertility treatment and research using human embryos.
  • Set up in 1990 by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, the HFEA is responsible for licensing, monitoring, and inspecting fertility clinics to ensure everyone accessing fertility treatment receives high quality care.
  • The HFEA is an ‘arm’s length body’ of the Department for Health and Social Care, working independently from Government providing free, clear, and impartial information about fertility treatment, clinics and egg, sperm and embryo donation.
  • The HFEA collects and verifies data on all treatments that take place in UK licensed clinics which can support scientific developments and research and service planning and delivery.
  • Around 2,700 children in the UK are born each year through the help of a donor. The HFEA holds records of all donors and children born since 1991.
  • The HFEA is funded by licence fees, IVF treatment fees and a grant from UK central government. For more information visit

Review date: 3 October 2024