The Future?

At the time of launch of this website, much debate surrounds the future of the legislation with regards to reproductive technologies and embryo research. In July 2010, following a recent change in the UK government, the Department of Health (DoH) published a review in to the streamlining of so-called ‘Arms Length Bodies’ (ALBs) including The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). In concordance with the Government’s plans to make “efficiency savings” throughout the health sector, Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley summarised the reason for the review as follows:
“Over the years the sector has grown to the point where overlap between organisations and duplication of effort have produced a needless bureaucratic web. By making sure that the right functions are being carried out at the appropriate level, we will free up significant savings to support front-line NHS services.”
In its examination of the HFEA, the review concluded that synergies existed between it and two other ALBs examined: the Care Quality Commission and the Human Tissue Authority (HTA). (It is worth noting at this point that in 2007 a parliamentary review of the Human Tissue and Embryos (Draft) Bill staunchly opposed a merger that had been suggested involving the HTA and the HFEA, on the grounds that the HFEA had a highly unique role that it had to uphold. As such, it was viewed that to try to merge it with another body would be costly both financially and to the standards of service delivery.) In light of its findings, the DoH have therefore proposed that the HFEA’s responsibilities be taken over and subsequently managed by a combination of a new research regulator, the Care Quality Commission, the Health and Social Care Information Centre and the HTA. Any such merger would obviously be a highly complex process. Acknowledging this, the DoH have stated that they do not intend to legislate for this in the upcoming autumn 2010 Health Bill but do however propose the introduction of the necessary legislation by the end of the current Parliament. As you would expect, arguments have already been voiced both in favour and against the DoH’s proposals. However, a firm decision is still yet to be reached by Government as to whether the review’s recommendations will be upheld. As such, for the mean time at least the future legislation of reproductive technologies and embryo research in the UK seems uncertain to say the least. Note: If you would like up to the minute information surrounding this evolving debate, BioNews (www.bionews.org) update their feeds on a regular basis with news articles as well as opinion pieces both for and against the proposed merger. You can also sign up to receive e-bulletins relating to this area to keep you up to date with the latest developments. Learn More: ‘Liberating the NHS: Report of the arms-length bodies review’: www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_117691