Since the beginning of the year I have refrained from commenting on the Department of Health’s decision to award (uncontested) the contract for running the pre 1991 connection register for donor conceived adults and donors to the National Gamete Donation Trust. Breathtakingly unaware of the contradictions involved in combining these two activities, DoH intention was always to bring together the recruitment of gamete donors with the linking of offspring and donors. Actually, they probably were aware but didn’t care anyway as saving money was what it was all about. UK Donor Link, who have provided a very much appreciated service since 2004, declined to bid because of the tender conditions requiring these two activities to become bedfellows (see link to their site below for details).
This weekend sees the handover from UKDL to the new Donor Conceived Register run by the National Gamete Donation Service. What can we expect from it?
One of the first differences is that the DCR will operate largely as an on-line, hands-off service. UKDL, part of After Adoption Yorkshire, was staffed by people with considerable experience of linking genetic relatives under difficult circumstances. The only person who will be contactable on the ‘phone at the DCR is lovely and a parent of a donor conceived child herself, but she does not have qualifications and experience that match in any way that of UKDL staff. I am told that she has been unable to answer many of the questions put to her by current registrants seeking to clarify issues around whether they should continue their registration with the new service. In the interests of all current registrants UKDL staff have been co-operating fully during these last three months of transition but have been dismayed by the lack of interest shown by the new team in just how their service operated.
UKDL had long been dissatisfied with the service they had been getting from the laboratory they had been using for DNA matching but because they have spent the last couple of years lurching from one funding crisis to the next, were unable to do anything about it. Although not without controversy from within the registrants group, DCR have secured a much better DNA testing and matching service. However, the laboratory will apparently have direct contact with registrants about the outcome, leaving the often confusing and/or distressing/exciting results unmediated by a supportive advisor. Of course the donor conceived people on the receiving end of these results are adults and presumably the DCR feels it is patronising to think that they require mediation of any sort. Experience from UKDL, however, shows that a proportion of those people receiving results can feel very vulnerable at this time and much value guidance from experienced professionals. Not necessarily something DCR wanted to hear.
It’s difficult. I know all the people behind the new DCR personally and have a lot of respect for each and every one of them. For the sake of all new and old registrants, and this includes Zannah and me, I wish them all the luck in the world. But do they really know what they have taken on?