There have been critical issues within laboratory staffing which has severely impacted the Homerton Fertility service. In early 2022 we experienced several resignations from our Embryology laboratory which supports the fertility service. This resulted in the fertility service having no Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered staff from April 2022 onwards (clinical scientists are registered with the HCPC and HCPC registered staff are required for certain licensed activities). There service was therefore required to temporarily pause the service whilst we recruited replacements. To ensure patients can still access treatment we have arranged outsourced capacity at two other NHS centres and have brought in some temporary staff to continue providing frozen treatments, ovulation induction and Intrauterine insemination. We expect to be able to restart the full range of treatments in approximately six months’ time.
There is currently no change to referral pathways and we continue to ask GPs to refer into Homerton as normal. Referrals will be added to the waiting list for a first appointment, then listed for treatment as required. Outsourcing of patients for fresh transfers is being done based on age and length of wait and we have a current waiting time for new patients of 12-15 months. We have previously written to patients explaining the reasons for the delays and detailing the next steps in their pathway, and are in the process of writing to them with an update.
NEL GPs should still consider the Homerton for new referrals but locally Barts or Guys and St Thomas’s should be accepting referrals. However, all patients should be notified of longer wait times at present. Other services may be available on eRS for fertility and GPs can refer to these if patients choose. However, services not available on eRS are not part of the choice network and the current NEL policy is that you are not able to refer patients to private clinics not on eRS as they will not be accepting nationally set tariffs and contract terms for NHS patients.