Belfast fertility clinic to challenge watchdog's ruling
Progress Educational Trust06 September 2012
A Northern Irish fertility clinic has protested against a regulatory notice which could mean it has to stop accepting new patients.
Origin Fertility Care in Belfast was inspected by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), the health and social care regulatory body for Northern Ireland, which not only flagged concerns about non-compliance with regulations, but noted that, on follow-up, these problems had not been sufficiently addressed.
According to the RQIA the clinic had failed to comply with eight of its regulations, including a lack of staff supervision, training, and inadequate handling of complaints and patient records.
After early inspections, the clinic closed in June for two weeks in order to reorganise, but when the RQIA visited after it re-opened, it still found that regulations were not being adhered to. The RQIA issued a 'notice of proposal' in July, putting the wheels in motion for its closure. It said that the clinic's failure to meet regulatory standards had 'led to concern regarding the ongoing safety and wellbeing of patients and Origin Fertility Care's ability to deliver a safe and effective service at this time'.
But the clinic, which has 28 days to appeal, believes that the RQIA's decision was premature and is challenging it, telling the BBC it is seeking legal recourse to 'protect their good name and reputation'.
A notice to patients placed on its website read: 'We are robustly challenging the findings of the last inspection and the resultant notice of proposal'.
Origin managing director Jenny Hall also told the BBC that the clinic was satisfied that systems now in place ensure a 'high standard of service to patients'.
'Publication has occurred before we had ever viewed their "detailed report" and without being given an opportunity to respond to the points raised', she said, adding that she felt the RQIA had potentially created 'a circumstance of uncertainty particularly for vulnerable patients currently undergoing treatment'.
Some politicians have voiced approval over the RQIA's actions. Jim Wells, deputy chair of the Northern Ireland Assembly's health committee, who recently sparked a row after claiming victims of sexual assault should not be exempt from laws prohibiting abortion, told the Belfast Telegraph earlier in August that he was relieved the healthcare regulator is 'showing its teeth'.
'Hopefully as a result of this intervention this clinic will be put back on an even keel', he said.
Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.