I am currently in the middle of a series of visits to fertility clinics around the country, talking to egg and sperm donation co-ordinators and counsellors about what I broadly call ‘the donor and recipient pathway’ in their particular clinic. I’m not asking about success rates or high-tech scientific equipment for tracking embryo development or anything else. I want to know about the social and emotional process for those donating gametes or receiving them and the procedures put in place and the role and attitudes of the staff involved in caring for these two very important groups of people. If donors and recipients are well cared for, if appropriate information, time and access to a counsellor is provided to enable them to make good decisions about donating or receiving eggs or sperm, then I think the chances of donors being available in 18 years time and parents feeling comfortable about sharing information with their children, are much greater.
DC Network, the organisation I am undertaking these visits for, is not in the habit of recommending individual clinics but it does deplore the practice of some clinics that tell their patients requiring egg donation that there is a waiting list of a minimum of two years in the UK for an egg donor so why don’t they go to this nice Spanish/Cypriot/US (or anywhere else) clinic that they have a tie up with. I have no quarrel with clinics that decide that egg or sperm donation is not what they want to do at their clinic. That is their prerogative. What I do think is disingenuous at best and downright lying at worst, is not telling potential recipients that donors are available without significant waiting times in the UK AND explaining to them the differences for the child in being conceived abroad. They don’t even have to tell patients the names of clinics where egg donation is widely available – and they hate even talking about other clinics because they are in competition with them – but they could refer them to DC Network or the National Gamete Donation Trust who do have this information.
Anyway, I’m not going to hold back.
Manchester Fertility, CARE Manchester, CARE Northants and apparently all the other CARE Centres in Sheffield, Nottingham and London where it is CRM/CARE, have both egg-share and altruistic donors and matching can take place within three months. CARE Northants currently has more donors than they have recipients. None of these clinics send people abroad or have tie-ups with foreign clinics.
The Lister clinic in London is increasingly focusing on UK based donation, although they do have tie-ups with an American and Spanish clinic as well. They work with the egg donation agency Altrui and recruit their own UK donors as well as having UK egg-sharers. UK matches take place in under six months.
All these clinics put a lot of emphasis on counselling and preparation for gamete donation and have virtually unlimited access to high quality counselling. All these clinics support and encourage their donors to provide significant amounts of non-identifiable information and this is available for recipients, if they want it, at the time of matching.
This is factual information and does not constitute a recommendation as such, but I think the facts speak for themselves.
I am continuing my tour and will report back. But because there is a widespread myth in the media, amongst fertility patients and the general public that there is a shortage of UK donors, I ask anyone reading this to do everything they can to challenge this assumption. It is for our children that I ask this.
21st July update: I can now add Herts and Essex clinic and The Bridge Centre as clinics that have egg donors, both sharers and altruistic at the former and almost all altruistic at the latter, to match (depending on characteristics) in two to four months.
July 2017 update: At long last and after much pestering the brand new HFEA website carries information for each clinic on the waiting times for egg, sperm and embryo donation. It may take a short while for all clinics to supply information for this section but they will soon find that it is in their interest to keep the figures updated. If your chosen clinic doesn’t have this information, ask for it.
It continues to be the case that very many UK clinics have both eggs (from altruistic or sharing donors or as part of an egg bank) and sperm readily available.