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COVID-19: REASSURANCE POSITION STATEMENT

 

Released by the HFEA on Tuesday 13th October 2020

In light of the worrying increase in Covid-19 cases and changes to local lockdown, the HFEA wants to provide some reassurance about fertility treatment.

The changes that clinics put in place from May 2020 onwards, to comply with professional guidelines and keep patients safe, mean that we hope a new national closure of fertility clinics should not be necessary.

All HFEA licensed clinics had to set out a Treatment Commencement Strategy in May 2020 showing how they could provide a safe service for their staff and patients during the pandemic.  These strategies are kept under regular review by clinics and our inspectors, and all clinics should follow the latest guidance from the UK professional bodies – the British Fertility Society and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists.

As the pandemic continues, we recognise that individual clinics may face circumstances where they will have to consider whether they can continue to maintain a safe service for a period of time – for example if they have a high level of staff sickness or their local hospital trust decides to restrict some patient services.

We expect clinics to follow professional and local guidance and to review and adapt their treatment strategy to ensure fertility treatment can continue to be provided safely.

Dr Cesar Diaz-Garcia, Medical Director of IVI London, comments:

“We want to reassure patients that IVI is working closely with the HFEA to follow the necessary procedures which allow us to continue offering treatments at our clinic.

We are well-equipped and ready to respond to ensure all types of fertility treatment can continue with no future disruption. IVI remains open and ready to welcome our new and ongoing patients.”

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call us on 0800 52 00 161.

 

Fertility treatments during the COVID-19 pandemic

 

This year, the COVID-19 epidemic has brought a lot of change to our way of life. Following guidance from both the UK government and the HFEA, IVI were forced to pause all treatments at our London clinic earlier this year in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.

In May, the HFEA opened applications from fertility clinics to re-open and resume treatments. Our application was approved and later that month, our clinic re-opened in full capacity and we began treatments again.

By taking the decision to re-open, we have a responsibility to our patients to ensure our premises is COVID-secure. This means we have had to introduce enhanced hygiene and safety measures to protect both our patients and staff.

When visiting our clinic, we kindly ask you play your part so we can keep everyone safe.

 

What should I do if I am an ongoing patient?

If you are an ongoing patient, there is nothing you need to do. Each IVI clinic will contact all patients whose treatments had to be suspended individually and assess how is best for them to return to treatment.

 

I’m a new patient. Is it possible to have my first consultation online?

Yes. We have always offered our patients the option of having their first consultation online. Given the circumstances relating to COVID-19, many more patients are choosing to meet us this way through an online video consultation first, before coming into the clinic for an on-site follow-up where they can have their diagnostic tests, such as scans and blood tests.

 

Can I still come into the clinic for a face-to-face appointment during my first consultation?

Yes. You have the option of coming into the clinic for your first consultation. If you do decide to come into the clinic, please be aware that you will need to follow our strict health and safety regulations, including a temperature screening and wearing a face covering at all times.

You can request an appointment, online or in person, online here or by phone on 0800 52 00 161.

 

What do I need to do before I get to the clinic?

It is extremely important you follow these preventive measures before coming to the clinic to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

  • Please wear a mask at all times. This is mandatory.
  • Please come alone if possible.
  • Please be on time. This means arriving as close to your scheduled appointment time as possible, so that you do not have to wait any longer than necessary inside the clinic.
  • Please do not come to the clinic if you have or have had a fever, cough, or respiratory symptoms in the past 14 days, and inform your doctor. We will be in contact with you to follow your progress and provide you with a new appointment as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Please do not come to the clinic if you have been in contact with someone either diagnosed with, or suspected of having COVID-19 in the past 14 days, and inform your doctor.
  • Please make all payments by card to avoid the handling of physical cash.

 

What happens once I arrive at the clinic?

Once you are inside the clinic, we will carry out the following steps as part of our enhanced hygiene and safety measures:

  • You will be asked to wear a mask. If you do not have a mask, we will provide one for you free of charge.
  • Your temperature will be measured with an infrared thermometer. If your temperature is higher than 37.7 °C, you will be asked to reschedule your appointment.
  • You will be asked to remove any gloves if they have been brought in from outside.
  • You will be asked to sanitise your hands using our hand sanitising gel.
  • You will be asked to use the stairs to avoid the lift.
  • You will be reminded of the physical safety distance of 2 meters. The clinic is marked with safe distance indicators as a guide and all seats in communal areas are separated by the recommended distance.

We will ensure there are no more than two patients waiting to be seen at the reception desk at all times.

 

Which patients will be able to start treatment?

IVI will only start treatment for patients who have tested negative for COVID-19. This also includes:

  • Patients with no history of direct contact with positive or suspicious cases in the 15 days prior to the start of treatment.
  • Patients with no history of COVID-19 infection in the 21 days prior to treatment.

 

Will I have any diagnostic tests done before I start my treatment?

IVI’s aim is to provide maximum safety for both patients and our employees during treatments. Therefore, when starting a treatment, we will perform serological or PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test on all patients (both women and men) to ensure they are not carrying the COVID-19 infection when starting treatment.

Before an egg retrieval, insemination or embryo transfer, a PCR test will be requested, to avoid any risk of infection during the procedure and to check that the patient is not infected at the time of insemination or embryo transfer.

The PCR and immunology tests will be carried out by the clinic. The costs are £25 for an immunology test and £80 for a PCR. Patients can also apply for a free test through the NHS website if they are showing symptoms of COVID-19.

 

Is there any risk of my genetic material being infected in the laboratories?

To date, no studies have shown that the virus can be found in semen samples and it is very unlikely to be found in eggs, or embryos. This is because transmission of the SARS CoV-2 virus occurs through the virus binding to receptors on respiratory or intestinal cells, which are not found in oocytes, sperm or embryos.

 

Advice for pregnant women during the COVID-19 pandemic

 

What effect does coronavirus have on pregnant women?

  • Based on the evidence, pregnant women are no more likely to contract coronavirus than the general population.
  • Pregnant women do not appear to be more likely to be seriously unwell or to have an increased risk of serious complications than other healthy adults if infected.

 

What effect will coronavirus have on my baby if I am diagnosed with COVID-19?

  • There is no evidence to suggest an increased risk of miscarriage.
  • There is evidence to suggest that there can be vertical transmission in a small number of cases. In these cases, the babies have been discharged from hospital in full health.
  • There is currently no evidence to suggest having the COVID-19 virus causes problems with your baby’s development.
  • A small number of babies have been born prematurely to women who were very unwell with coronavirus. It is unclear whether COVID-19 caused these premature births, or the induction of delivery was recommended for the benefit of the mother’s health and to enable her to recover.

 

Why are pregnant women in a vulnerable group?

The NHS has included pregnant women in the list of people at moderate risk as a precaution. Viral infections are commonly worse in pregnant women, but there is little evidence to suggest this is the case for the COVID-19 infection. It is advised to reduce social contact through social distancing measures and to take a cautious approach.

If you require more information, please refer to the NHS guidelines for pregnant women here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk/pregnancy-and-coronavirus/

 

 

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