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Need to 'eradicate' minor mistakes made during IVF treatments

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For every 100 women who undergo IVF, one will suffer an “adverse incident”, show new figures on patient safety.

On average, there are 500 to 600 mistakes made in every 60,000 cycles of fertility treatment, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

“There remain too many grade C mistakes, such as breaches of confidentiality”

Sally Cheshire

Its latest report suggests that from the start of 2010 to the end of 2012 there were 1,679 adverse incidents in UK fertility clinics.

The authority, which licenses fertility clinics and centres carrying out in vitro fertilisation (IVF), other assisted conception procedures and human embryo research, said there were three of the most serious adverse events, known as grade A mistakes, 714 grade B incidents and 815 grade C errors during this time frame.

One of the most serious mistakes reported was a family receiving the wrong sperm. The couple were supposed to be given donor sperm from a specific donor - so their child would have the same genes as their sibling - but they were given the sperm of a different donor.

Another incident involved dishes with the embryos of 11 patients becoming contaminated with “cellular debris that may have contained sperm,” the report states.

The final grade A error occurred when a member of staff removed frozen sperm from storage while it was still within its consent period.

HFEA said that the most serious incidents occur “infrequently”, but the number of grade C mistakes − such as breaches of confidentiality or one of many eggs being rendered unusable during the processing of treatment − remains “too high”.

“We are committed to ensuring that clinics provide the safest and highest quality service to their patients,” said HFEA chair Sally Cheshire.


Sally Cheshire

“These results show that, in the main, clinics are doing a good job of minimising the number of serious errors, and this should be welcomed,” she said.

“However, there remain too many grade C mistakes, such as breaches of confidentiality. As patients have often told us, these mistakes may be less serious at first glance but they can still be very upsetting,” she added.

“Clinics can and should be eradicating these sorts of avoidable errors, which will go a long way towards reducing patient distress and improving the overall experience of IVF treatment,” said Ms Cheshire.

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