Another fertility clinic has been confirmed using the same “faulty” product which is feared to have destroyed frozen eggs and embryos belonging to 136 women.
The Jessop Fertility clinic in Sheffield, which accepts NHS and private patients, has been announced as the second site affected by the product.
Joins Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust in London yesterday confirmed that dozens of women may have lost the chance to become biological mothers due to a mistake with a freezing solution.
Rachel Cutting, of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), said: “The HFEA can confirm that this problem is limited to two clinics in the UK: Guys’ and St Thomas’ Assisted Conception Unit, London and Jessop Fertility, Sheffield.
“Our ongoing investigation only relates to Guys” as we are satisfied that Jessop’s carried out a thorough investigation when they became aware of the issue and communicated and supported any affected patients.
‘The company that supplies the product directly to the clinics will know exactly where it has happened thanks to its traceability processes.
“All patients who may have been affected will be notified by their clinic.”
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136 women may have lost the chance to become birth mothers and an NHS fertility clinic warns that their frozen eggs and embryos may not survive the thawing process due to a fault (file image)
All women had their eggs or embryos frozen at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust between September and October 2022.
The number of women affected at Jessop’s has not been confirmed.
It is also not known if the solution was sent to more UK IVF clinics but it was used.
Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Educational Trust, a charity representing people affected by infertility, said on hearing the news of the ruling: “It will be distressing for women with frozen eggs to know that, due to problems beyond their control, Your eggs may not survive the thawing process.
‘We need to better understand what exactly went wrong, whether patients at other clinics are affected and what the relevant regulators, including the HFEA and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, are doing about it.
“We also need regulators and clinics to assure us that processes are in place to notify patients in a timely manner when something goes wrong.”
Catherine Slattery, group actions medical negligence solicitor at law firm Irwin Mitchell, said they were in contact with some of the women affected.
“This is a very worrying incident which could have potentially devastating consequences for women, especially those who have had to endure the physical and psychological impact of cancer treatment,” she said.
‘We have been contacted by a number of possibly affected women and are investigating their concerns further.
“Some women reside in London and receive treatment at Guy’s Hospital, while others reside elsewhere in England and Wales.”
Among the women affected at Guy’s are cancer patients who have had their uterus surgically removed.
Treatment for some types of cancer can make women infertile, meaning they may be advised to freeze their eggs beforehand.
News of the error was only communicated to patients during the last two weeks.
The hospital, which learned of the error in March of last year, attributed the delay in communicating the problem to confusion over which specific batches were affected.
The delay between the incident occurring and women finding out about the failure means that some may no longer have extra eggs to freeze, effectively dashing their hopes of ever becoming biological mothers.
Even those who still have the option of receiving more IVF treatments could face much greater difficulties.
The odds of successful IVF decline rapidly as women age, from 32 percent for women under 35 to just 4 percent for women over 44, declining to approximately 6 to 7 percent. for every two years of age.
Ms Norcross condemned the “terrible delay” in notifying patients.
Currently, fertility treatment has a success rate of up to 40 percent. Around a third of IVF cycles among under-35s resulted in a live birth in 2019 in the UK. However, this proportion dropped to just 4 percent among people over 44 years of age.
All affected women at Guy’s had their eggs or embryos frozen at the clinic in the fall of 2022, between September and October.
The clinic, which boasts of being one of the most advanced of its kind in the country, It deals with both NHS and private patients, charging the latter thousands of pounds for IVF treatment and hundreds for egg and embryo cryopreservation.
Patient leaflets list the cost of an IVF embryo freezing at £4,750 and an annual cryopreservation storage fee of £350.
A letter sent to the women, seen by The Times, informed them that their eggs and embryos “may not survive the thawing process” due to a manufacturing problem with the solution bottles originally used to freeze them.
HEFA is actively investigating the incident.
Guy’s apologized for the delay in communicating the issue and offered advice to the women.
Guy’s Assisted Conception Unit treats around 2,000 patients a year.
Women shocked by the loss of eggs and embryos say they are devastated.
One, who spoke anonymously, said: “The doctor informed me that the eggs I had frozen are unlikely to be viable due to a faulty freezing process.” It has been devastating.
“It is traumatizing for these poor women to be told that their frozen eggs cannot be used.”
She asked that Guy’s cover the cost of additional fertility treatment.
A Trust spokesperson said: “We have contacted everyone affected and apologized for the delay in doing so and any distress this may have caused.”
“We are supporting those who may have been affected, including through our advice service, and would urge anyone with concerns to speak to us directly via the dedicated phone line we have set up.”
The conception unit became aware of the problem just weeks after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency issued an alert about problems with the freezing solution.
The HFEA recorded more than 4,200 egg storage cycles in 2021, almost double the 2,500 in 2019.
The number of women freezing their eggs is thought to have increased during Covid because many feared they were running out of time to have a baby.
The pandemic halted dating among single women for months, leaving some unsure when they would find the right partner to start a family.
Egg freezing involves following the first steps of IVF, which takes two to three weeks to complete.
Women take medications to increase egg production and help them mature.
The eggs are then collected under general anesthesia, mixed with a freezing solution, and frozen.
Most patients under the age of 38 have seven to 14 eggs collected. On average, women lose about 1,000 eggs a month.