More questions raised than answers available this week. For instance, does the headline in today’s Guardian ‘Chief of NHS regulator quits amid claims it is no longer fit for purpose’ give us a clue as to why we are still awaiting a promised Department of Health consultation on where the functions of the HFEA are best placed? This was due before Christmas but enquiries to DH officials constantly bring the answer, “sorry postponed, don’t know when…”
Denis Campbell in the Guardian reports that Cynthia Bower, Chief Executive of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) resigned yesterday. This is said to be a voluntary decision but given the likely ‘damning’ nature of the imminent Public Accounts Committee Report, followed by the report on the Stafford Hospital debacle due in April/May, Bower’s position was likely to have become untenable then anyway.
How can the CQC possibly be considered the right place to take on the complex and multi-layered functions of the HFEA when they cannot seem to get the basic functions of their organisation to a state where patients lives are not put at risk? Is Cameron going to insist that this beleaguered organisation continues with plans to take on the HFEA in the same blinkered way that he is pressing ahead with NHS ‘reform?’ For those donor conceived people, parents and donors whose details are held in HFEA files, it is vital to know that not only is the information safe but that there is good access to it when those who have a legitimate reason to consult the Register need to do so. Also that inspections of fertility clinics are carried out competently and consistently by those who understand the family building as well as the scientific functions of these clinics. We need answers to all these questions very soon.
My eyebrows have also been raised by the announcement – or rather the stealthy appearance on their website – of the members of the working party on Donor Conception and Information (previously called Genes and Parenting) convened by the Nuffield Council on Bio-Ethics. The inclusion of Sheila Pike, Senior Counsellor from Sheffield and Laura Witjens, a former egg donor, is much welcomed, but I can’t help wondering where the other stakeholders in the donor conception triangle are? No parents of donor conceived children and no donor conceived adult. Lots of academics though. I understand that at their first meeting on 27th February one of the first questions will be, “Do we have the right people round the table?”. I will be interested in the answer.