Just spent most of this week, when not being strung out by HFEA’s illogical and inconsistent decision yesterday, wrestling with an application to the Department of Health for money to run trainings for the many volunteers involved in supporting others in DCN. They don’t make it easy. ‘Innovation’ and ‘Big Society’ are the buzzwords and the challenge is to fit in enough words and phrases like new, unique, fresh, community, ‘make a real difference’ without over-egging it and making any assessor sick and cross-eyed. With lots of encouragement from me (the big picture, let’s get this thing done person) Nina (the more cautious, do you want to check it one more time type) pressed the ‘send’ button and our fate is now up to some faceless person in Leeds, but hopefully supported by our very nice and helpful contact at DoH Wellington House in London. Nina also managed to get the DCN October eBulletin out before going off to Greece tomorrow for a wedding and a well-deserved few days break in the sun with her son. She is wonderful.
And it was Nina, who though as distressed as I was yesterday, was able to point out to me this morning how strange and unexpected the final decision about ‘compensation’ had been, given the build-up in the presentations and discussion of the earlier sections. In these we were told how respondents to the consultation on donor eggs and sperm, put giving donors more money a much lower priority than raising awareness of the need and of setting up a proper recruitment infrastructure. A commitment was made in the Changing Landscape section to ‘take a pro-active approach to recruitment by establishing a national strategy group to improve awareness, donor customer service and retention of donors’. This is to be in partnership with all stakeholders including patient groups…that’s DCN, unless we are to be ignored following my passionate declaration of disappointment in their decision making ability yesterday. The Executive also banged on about the importance of looking after donors and the welfare of donor conceived children. No evidence was given that increasing the amount of money available increases the number of donors (in fact the opposite evidence was contained in consultation responses). And no evidence was given that financial incentives would increase the right kind of of donors. Yet, like little lambs the HFEA board bowed to their Chairwoman’s wish not to debate the actual sums and agreed that ‘compensation’ should be £750 per cycle for egg donation and £35 per clinic visit for sperm donors, thus allowing the media and the public in general, who have no interest beyond headlines, to talk about massive increases in donor payments.
One clinician I spoke to before going into the meeting yesterday pointed out that eighteen months ago the headlines had spoken of £800 as being the figure that egg donors were likely to receive as a result of the consultation. This was supposed to be Lisa Jardine being ‘caught on the hop’. Well so much for the consultation. ‘A whitewash’ as another attendee said afterwards in disgust. I can only agree.