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Covid-19: Human Fertilisation and Embryology

Volume 676: debated on Wednesday 3 June 2020

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Innovation) (Lord Bethell) has made the following written statement:

We are today laying a negative solution statutory instrument, which will extend the statutory storage period for embryos and gametes from 10 years to 12 years in certain circumstances.

To support wider changes to the health service in responding to the pandemic, fertility treatment in the UK across the NHS and private sector was temporarily suspended on 23 March. While this suspension was lifted from 11 May, there may still be delays for some patients in accessing their fertility treatment, as clinics need to meet robust safety criteria in order to restart treatment.

In recognition of the potential impact this may have on those wishing to start a family, the Government committed to extending the current 10-year storage limit for embryos and gametes by two years, in certain circumstances, to enable sufficient time for all fertility treatment to resume and patients to make new arrangements without having to rush their decision-making.

The new statutory instrument allows anyone who currently has frozen their eggs, sperm and embryos to extend their storage for an additional two years, provided there is appropriate consent. Currently the storage period for embryos and gametes is limited to a maximum of 10 years, after which people must choose whether to undergo fertility treatment, or have their frozen eggs, sperm and embryos destroyed. People with medical conditions that have caused fertility problems can extend for longer, but this SI allows them two additional years before they need to provide supporting medical evidence.

The Government have recognised that the suspension of fertility services has been extremely worrying for patients, the announcement of this SI provides them with some much-needed reassurance and most importantly gives more time to try for their much longed for family and was welcomed by patient stakeholder groups.

Earlier in the year the Government launched a consultation for views on whether the current primary legislation to store their frozen eggs, sperm and embryos for 10 years should change. The consultation closed on 5 May. The Government will be making a separate set of decisions about the law in the light of the analysing the consultation responses and announcing those later in the year.