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Health watchdogs and authorities

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)

HFEA logo

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is the UK's independent regulator dedicated to licensing and monitoring fertility clinics and research involving human embryos. Established in 1991, the HFEA regulates clinics and laboratories according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 and the European Union Tissue and Cells Directive.

The HFEA provides authoritative information for the public, in particular for people seeking treatment, donor-conceived people and donors. They also determine the policy framework for fertility issues, which are sometimes ethically and clinically complex.

The HFEA holds and maintains the world’s largest national data set on regulated fertility treatments, including the handling and storage of sperm, eggs and embryos.

Committees

The HFEA has a board of authority members who are appointed to set the strategic direction of the organisation, determine new policies, and give advice to the Secretary of State for Health.

To ensure the HFEA has an objective and independent view, the chair, deputy chair and the majority of members are lay, with broad expertise ranging from medicine to law and religion to philosophy. The rest of the members are doctors and scientists involved in human embryo research or fertility treatment.

The sub-committees consider treatment and research licence applications, give scientific and ethical advice to the HFEA and ensure that the organisation is run effectively.

What does the HFEA do?

  • sets and enforces standards for clinics and laboratories to give the level of care that patients and donors should be able to expect
  • provides patients with essential and accurate information to enable them to make informed choices about their treatment
  • collects information about egg and sperm donors and responds to requests for that information from donor-conceived people, enabling them to find out about their genetic origins
  • safeguards that information in a way which protects the interests of patients, donors, and children born as a result of assisted reproduction, and also enables vital research to be undertaken
  • consults widely, with stakeholders and the public, to ensure that HFEA policies balance public concerns with the needs of patients, using their experience of inspection and data collection to ensure that policies are workable and have the appropriate impact

Useful services

Choose a fertility clinic – a useful search tool to find your nearest HFEA-licensed fertility clinic as well as their services and live birth rates.

Apply for information – the HFEA holds information about all fertility treatments that take place in the UK. Donor-conceived people can apply for information about their donor.

Donor Sibling Link – donor-conceived people are able to get in touch with others who share the same donor, their genetic siblings. 

Patient information – the HFEA website has information on fertility treatments, freezing and storage options, as well as information on how to understand live birth rates and how to find the most suitable clinic 

Page last reviewed: 30/12/2014

Next review due: 30/12/2016

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