Our response to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) situation

Update – 24/03/20

Due to the Prime Minister’s updated guidance on the evening of 23/03/20, which aimed to further restrict social movement and to help slow the spread of COVID-19 infection, we have taken further measures to reduce the number of staff needed in our clinics and to reduce the number of times you will need to travel. As such:

  • With immediate effect any remaining face-to-face consultations will be switched to being skype/telephone
  • No new stimulations will start after 30/03/20 and all treatments started up until this point will now be elective freeze all cycles only. This means that no new treatments will need to occur after 15/04/20
  • Only those staff that are critical to the ongoing clinical care of our patients will be onsite. Please accept our apologies in advance if this in anyway reduces the normally excellent patient experience you have at our clinics

All other guidance below remains unaltered.

Dear patient,  

Thank you for taking a moment to read this in these turbulent times.

At CARE we know only too well that the road to assisted conception can, at times, be complicated and challenging.  Clearly the current COVID-19 pandemic only adds to these anxieties.

Staff and patient safety are at the heart of our decision making and during these unprecedented times, this  core value sits  alongside our social responsibilities to our wonderful NHS colleagues.

The purpose of this information is to help you understand why we have taken the decisions we have and what it means to you by summarising:

  • The current position of the CARE Fertility Group
  • The latest professional body guidance
  • How we can continue to help you on your journey
Our current position

We firstly want to reassure you that treatments started before the 30th March will continue unaffected.

However,  following  very  clear  guidance  from  the  British  Fertility Society  (BFS)  and  due  to  the  escalating measures  around  social distancing  we feel  it  would  be  inappropriate  to  start  any new treatments beyond the 30th March apart from a limited number of patients where there is an urgent clinical imperative for treatment  or fertility preservation, a reduced service will continue.

We  understand  that  this  news  will  be  a  disappointment to many and we  can  assure  you  the  decision has  been  incredibly  hard  for  us to take.

Latest professional guidance 

We, as you would hope, have been in dialogue with colleagues across the world and have been taking expert advice, considering the information available and the professional body guidelines on dealing with this unprecedented situation. We have been evolving our approach, policies and patient information to fit with their guidance alongside the latest evidence of the impact of COVID-19.

On the 18th of March, the British Fertility Society (BFS) and the Association of Reproductive Clinical Scientists (ARCS) released guidance recommending that IVF centres suspend future fertility treatments, including IVF, frozen embryo transfers, IUI and ovulation induction. The aims being to avoid pregnancies as a result of assisted conception at this time, and to be socially responsible by minimising the spread of the virus.

As recognised by the BFS, ARCS and by the HFEA providing this recommendation was a difficult decision to make. The main difficulty being the lack of evidence to suggest that COVID-19 poses any greater risk to fertility patients than those hoping to conceive without the help of assisted conception.

The UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has advised that pregnant women do not appear to be more susceptible to infection with COVID-19 than the general population. They also advise that there is currently no information yet suggesting an increased risk of miscarriage in pregnant women infected with COVID-19. In addition, there is no evidence from studies of similar viruses (such as SARS and MERS) that demonstrates a relationship between infection and pregnancy problems.

However, it is widely recognised that this is an evolving picture and we will continue to monitor all advice available.

CARE Fertility's response to the guidance 

We recognise our responsibility to ease the burden on the health service and to ensure medical staff are free and able to work in the NHS to help provide essential support to patients infected with COVID-19.

We fully support any action to help the NHS during this difficult time and have factored this guidance into our response.

We fully recognise the need to be socially responsible and have taken the following steps to minimise risks of contact between our staff and patients:

  • Health checks for everyone attending a CARE clinic, including temperature checks where appropriate
  • Increased hand hygiene measures implemented and more frequent cleaning in line with government guidance
  • Non front line staff are now working from home and all but vital travel between clinics has been stopped
  • Staff are being fully supported to self-isolate where appropriate
  • We are minimising patient contact, conducting appointments by Skype and avoiding physical contact

The Prime Minister’s statement of 16th March placed pregnant women as vulnerable or high risk. However, Professor Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, acknowledged at the time the statement was made, that this guidance might be overly cautious and is not based on evidence.

However, we take this guidance seriously, and as from the 30th March we will stop providing all services with the exception of:

  • Skype consultations (both new and existing patients),
  • Donor matching and embryo creation (using frozen eggs),
  • Semen analysis
  • Fertility preservation for specific cases 

For cycles started before the 30th March, we will, where appropriate, encourage you to freeze your embryos and complete your cycle with a frozen embryo replacement as soon as we are able to start offering this service again.

If you are a patient of CARE London or CARE Sheffield, please contact your clinic as their policy is different.

CARE's view

We respect the guidance but remain disappointed that those of you who have struggled to conceive without help have been singled out, as there has been no guidance to the general population to avoid conceiving.

It is our sincere hope that over the coming weeks once more is known about this disease that we can assist in reviewing the guidance and offer a more comprehensive service to you all.

How we can continue to help you on your journey

We remain open and are here to help and support you. I encourage all our existing and future patients to get in touch and our staff will be more than happy to discuss your specific treatment options.

Treatments starting before the 30th March

No change, your treatment is unaffected although we recommend that where appropriate you do not have a fresh transfer and instead freeze your embryos. We will freeze, store and perform a future frozen embryo transfer at no extra charge.

After the 30th of March we will perform the following services:

IVF and ICSI

During this time we will offer an ‘Elective Freeze All’ approach, which is explained further below. This is only for patients with a critical medical need, oncology patients who need fertility preservation prior to cancer treatment.

Egg donation

Whilst we will not be performing any embryo transfers for patients wishing to start treatment after the 30th March we can still match you to your chosen egg donor (from our extensive frozen egg bank) and get everything ready for when we reopen fully. We encourage you to get in touch with our donation teams.

Frozen embryo transfer (FET)

No new treatments will be started after the 30th of March until further notice.

IUI and ovulation induction

No new treatments will be started after the 30th March until further notice.

Consultation, semen analysis, pre-treatment ultrasound scans

Consultation will go ahead using Skype and the results and treatment options discussed with you, with a view to planning your future treatment. We appreciate that this change in policy will be difficult for many of you. Please get in touch so we can support you and give you up to date guidance on when all services will resume.

If you are a patient of CARE London or CARE Sheffield, please contact your clinic as their policy is different.

Our Elective Freeze All program

There are many benefits of this approach and a number of CARE clinics use this exclusively.

The service broadly involves the creation of embryos (usually blastocysts) following egg collection, insemination, fertilisation and culture as with standard IVF or ICSI.

However, we do not perform a fresh embryo transfer as the embryos are frozen and used at a later date.

The full benefits of this program can be found in our dedicated Elective Freeze All literature or our video guide. However, the main benefits are:

  • A significant reduction in the risk of OHSS (very important in these times of high NHS demand)
  • The choice of when to have an embryo transfer, providing confidence and reducing stress
  • Excellent success rates

Usually this program is more expensive than IVF, as we charge for the embryo freezing and the subsequent frozen thawed embryo transfer.   However,  during this period, we will perform the freeze, storage  and the first frozen transfer at no extra cost. 

Our CARE family

We place patient and staff safety at the heart of all we do, we care passionately about your future and will be here to help and support you through these difficult and changing times.

 

 

David Burford, CEO

The last few weeks have been a series of swiftly moving, bewildering events. One thing which has remained constant is the commitment of the CARE team to our patients.

It’s clear that communicating regularly, keeping everyone up to date with all developments, will help see us through this difficult period.

So we will continue to distribute information as widely as possible including blogs and videos on our website and social platforms.

We have added some Q&As from our Facebook Live on our blog.