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Frequently asked questions for patients on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We know that the closure of fertility clinics due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful for many patients and we are pleased that fertility clinics can now apply to reopen.

We have produced these questions and answers to help to explain how some clinics will begin the process of reopening. If you have specific questions regarding your medical treatment or the reopening of your chosen fertility clinic, you will need to speak to your clinic directly.

We will update these FAQ’s as needed and we will keep you informed via our website, Twitter and Facebook.

What is the current situation?

Fertility clinics can now apply to reopen. We now have a clear plan for how clinics can offer treatment safely to patients during the continuing situation with the COVID-19 pandemic.

What do clinics need to do before they can reopen?

A revised General Direction 0014 has been issued to licensed UK fertility clinics, which sets out conditions that must be met by a clinic in order to reopen for treatment. These new guidelines aim to ensure the safety of patients, their gametes and embryos, and of clinic staff. Clinics must have a COVID-19 Treatment Commencement Strategy that records the measures the clinic will be taking to comply with current professional body and UK and devolved government guidance on safe and effective treatment.

General Directions are issued when we need to change clinic practice in line with new policy or guidance. General Directions are mandatory, meaning that all clinics must follow them. If a clinic fails to do so, it would be a breach of a statutory licence condition, which may have serious implications on their license, including suspending or revoking a clinic’s license.

How long will it take you to process applications from clinics to reopen?

We aim to complete our approval process within 5 working days of receiving the completed clinic self-assessment.

Will some clinics open before others?

The revised General Direction applies to all licensed UK clinics, both NHS and private. It does not require clinics to resume treatment by a certain date and it is likely that some clinics will be in a position to start treatment before others. This is because clinics will need to consider local factors relevant to their service provision and whether they have the resources to be able to offer a safe service at this time. A list of clinics that have been authorised to resume treatment can be found on this page

You can get in touch with your chosen clinic to find out when they will resume treatment. If you are not currently with a clinic you can use our Choose a Fertility Clinic’ service to help you find one.

Will clinics implement social distancing?

The revised guidance from professional societies and UK and devolved governments set out ways in which services can be reconfigured to allow patients to be treated safely and clinic staff to work safely during the current situation with COVID-19. Clinics will need to outline in their COVID-19 Treatment Commencement Strategy how they will comply with Government guidance on social distancing.

Do I need to be tested for COVID-19 prior to treatment?

Some clinics may choose to include testing for COVID-19 as part of their treatment strategy for all patients having treatment including patients who are asymptomatic. We have not stated clinics must test all patients as it is not a current recommendation made by Government or the Professional Bodies (BFS/ARCS). If you’d like more information on COVID-19 testing, please refer to the Government guidance. You can request also request a test on the NHS website.

When clinics reopen will they prioritise particular groups of patients?

It is up to individual clinics to decide which treatments are to resume and when. Clinics will be holding waiting lists of patients whose cycles had to be cancelled or who could not start planned treatment during the closure. We understand that unless there are exceptional circumstances, most clinics will be carrying on where they left off in terms of who they will offer treatment to and will be in touch to let those people know what to expect.

My clinic is not responding to me. What can I do?

Many clinics have been operating with reduced staffing levels (where employees may have been redeployed, furloughed or are unwell). As clinics begin to reopen, they may be doing so on a reduced service and therefore may take longer to reply than usual. We have encouraged clinics to communicate with patients about their current status and it might be helpful to check on your chosen clinic’s website or social media pages for any updates they have provided.

We are unable to answer medical questions or questions related to your specific treatment. If your question is related to either of these, you will need to wait for a response from your clinic. We know that clinics are eager to resume treatment as soon as possible, but safety must remain their priority.

I’m not on any clinic’s waiting list but was hoping to start treatment soon. What can I do?

Most clinics are offering telephone or video initial consultations and we suggest if you haven’t yet chosen your clinic, you visit the ‘Choose a Fertility Clinic’ section of our website to help you do this. You can then get in touch with your chosen clinic to find out more.

I need further NHS investigations e.g. a laparoscopy or surgical sperm retrieval. What will happen about these procedures?

Currently we don’t have any information about when routine NHS procedures will recommence. Unfortunately, there is likely to be a longer wait for these services as there will be a back log.

We’re nearing the 10-year storage limit for our eggs/sperm/embryos. Will we still be able to use them if we don’t have treatment before our storage expires?

The Government has confirmed that the current 10-year storage limit for embryos and gametes will be extended by two years. This means that patients who have stored sperm, eggs or embryos that are reaching the 10-year storage limit will not be penalised by the current suspension of fertility treatment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will be issuing new guidance to fertility clinics to support them in implementing the new storage limit extension.

What if I don’t want to have treatment because of the risk of contracting COVID-19 or the lack of information on any adverse effects for women who contract the virus during pregnancy?

Any risks about the impact of COVID-19 on pregnancy have been considered by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) who have regularly updated their guidance. This would be taken into consideration by your clinic before treatment is started. Patients would need to actively consent to having treatment whilst there is a risk that they could contract COVID-19 either during the treatment or if successful, during pregnancy.

How will clinics keep patients safe?

Our priority and that of the clinics is the safety of patients, their gametes and embryos and of clinic staff. We need to be assured that clinics have processes in place to ensure all of these before they reopen. Clinics will need to satisfy the requirements set out in the revised General Direction 0014. These requirements include that clinics record the measures the centre will be taking to comply with current guidance on safe and effective treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic published by professional bodies and UK and devolved governments.

Will I still be eligible for NHS funding if my treatment was delayed due to COVID-19?

While we have no remit over funding, we hope that those relying on NHS funding will be allowed to continue their treatment as they expected. We know that the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have committed to ensure that patients are not disadvantaged by the pandemic. The situation has yet to be clarified in England where the patient charity Fertility Network UK is actively trying to ascertain the situation.

How will the resumption of fertility treatment impact the NHS?

We have been monitoring this situation closely and believe that circumstances have changed in recent weeks and that fertility treatment can resume without negatively impacting on the NHS. Clinics must have procedures in place to mitigate any complications that might arise from treatment.


Review date: 22 May 2022