Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)

The HFEA regulates all clinical donor conception treatment in the UK. It licenses and inspects clinics, and publishes a code of practice, and regularly undertakes policy reviews. It maintains a Register of all donor conception treatments and births, which clinics are required to notify to it; the records on the Register go back to 1991. The HFEA website lists all the licensed clinics, what treatments they offer and statistics on their outcomes.

The Network is regularly consulted by the HFEA, and we are often invited to nominate members to sit on working parties or advisory groups.

Department of Health

The Department of Health is the government department with overall responsibility and oversight of legislation and policy relating to assisted reproduction and to donor conception. We work closely with the department and its officials and ministers. In 2007 the department expressed its support for the Network and agreed to fund our programme of workshops on Telling and Talking and on Preparation for Donor Conception Parenthood for the first 4 years. This funding ended in 2012.

Speaking in the House of Lords, the government health minister Baroness Royall said:

“The Government recognise the importance of ensuring that prospective parents understand how important it is that a child is told that they were donor-conceived. Honesty is fundamental, and a child who is told at an early age will grow up with that knowledge and will be better informed, and there will be better family relationships. That is done by the parents telling them in the most effective and least distressing way. It is the Government’s view that that is best achieved by education rather than enforcement.

To that end, the Department of Health is working closely with the Donor Conception Network to support projects to encourage telling. I certainly recommend that your Lordships have a look at its website, which is rather good. We are funding the Telling and Talking project, which supports parents who have already told children about their donor conception. We are also funding a second project that will be working with prospective parents hoping to conceive using donor gametes. These projects, involving discussions and workshops, will be piloted and evaluated to assess the best way of communicating with parents and prospective parents and to give them the opportunity to feed back information. The preparation project will talk to parents about the process of donor conception, its implications and its particular responsibilities.” [10 December 2007]