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Staff Reduce IVF Patients’ ‘Emotional Rollercoaster Stress’

Patient satisfaction research by Midland Fertility Services indicates that staff are the most appreciated factor in reducing the stress of IVF treatment.

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Some of the MFS nursing team

From 84 responses of patients who had just completed IVF or IUI treatment at the unit during the six months of November 2009 – April 2010, 79% said they found the nursing staff ‘easy to talk to’ or ‘very easy to talk’ to during appointments.  Laboratory staff were praised by all responders as ‘polite and helpful’ and 94% felt that the scientists gave information about their treatment in language that was easy to understand.

Many patients echoed the general comments that the clinic has “very friendly staff who treated us as individuals and as not ‘just another case'” and that “the staff were polite and helpful and so we would recommend MFS to other patients”.

71% of the patients recalled being aware of the free counselling service by the time of their treatment planning appointment and before actual treatment began, although only 17% had a need to use the service before or during their treatment.

More than one-third of the responding patients used the MFS extended opening hours, booking appointments between 7.30 and 9.00am and between 5.00 and 6.00pm.  Such flexible hours further reduce the pressures of IVF by enabling patients to more easily combine work and their fertility treatment.  The importance of this service was echoed by 54% of responders who stated that a convenient time for their appointment was more important than the availability of a specific nurse, compared to 42% who felt it was more important to see the nurse of their choice.

“MFS understands that fertility patients need both expert treatment and excellent care, to ease the stress of the ‘IVF rollercoaster’,” said Heidi Birch, MFS director of nursing services.  “The responses show that MFS staff are the unit’s greatest asset, combining expertise in their fields with compassion and the ability to listen to each and every patient and to treat them all as individuals.”

“Such six-monthly research reassures us that MFS meets or exceeds patients’ expectations in many areas of the services we provide.  It also provides feedback on how we can make changes to further improve the patient experience at MFS.”

MFS patient satisfaction research continues.

What Will Happen to the HFEA?

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Dr Gillian Lockwood comments on the view from the chief executive.

“Alan Doran spoke at the recent ‘Reproductive Medicine 2010’ conference in London and described the UK’s new government plans to divide the responsibilities of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) between different existing organisations to reduce the cost and burden of regulation. This would see the end of the HFEA as we know it. Clinicians working in the field of IVF see it as a routine (if rather wonderful) medical procedure that has resulted in the birth of millions of healthy babies worldwide.  We hope the government’s proposals mark the potential end of inappropriately intrusive oversight of fertility treatment and discrimination against the infertile couple.  Over 40,000 IVF treatments are provided in the UK each year and 1.6% of all births are IVF or ICSI babies.  It is no longer ‘new’ and is only ‘controversial’ for those who want to stop it.  It is time to acknowledge the past work of the HFEA and move on.

Dr Gillian Lockwood
Dr Gillian Lockwood

“Mr Doran pointed out that Government proposals do not always come to fruition and there are significant legislative obstacles to overcome as the HFEAct is primary legislation and it may need another Act of Parliament to abolish it.  He was naturally unhappy that his job was disappearing!  But if significant reductions in the regulatory burden are to be achieved, it is hoped that the Department of Health will listen to professionals directly involved in this field and to the patients who want to be able to make their own reproductive choices, rather than try to replicate current procedures under new names.

“Given that Mr Doran is a twin, (and only one-quarter of all the twins born in the UK are from IVF or ICSI treatments), the doctors, nurses and scientists at the conference were puzzled by the ferocity of his attack on clinics that ‘kept transferring more than one embryo’ and didn’t care how many twins or triplets they made.

“In fact, most clinics have made good progress in reducing the multiple pregnancy rate and had Mr Doran stayed for my presentation on ‘practical and ethical considerations in multiple birth strategies’, he would have seen that MFS, as part of the West Midlands Consensus, has maintained pregnancy rates while halving twin rates!  The eSET or Elective Single Embryo Transfer policy, of course, relies on a good cryopreservation programme.  That makes it puzzling (to say the least) that the HFEA has gone back on its promise not to charge the ‘fertility tax’ of over £100  per transfer for frozen embryo transfers where the couple had a single embryo transferred in their fresh cycle!

“It is likely that the lawyers and politicians will continue to debate whether and when the HFEA can be abolished. Professionals working in IVF and the many thousands of patients they would like to help will just keep hoping that the new government will see that implementing the NICE guideline of three full IVF or ICSI cycles for all childless couples is the real priority and implement it soon!”

The Fertility Show

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The Fertility Show returns to Olympia, London on 5 – 6 November. Aimed at anyone thinking of having a baby or finding it difficult to get pregnant, or who wants to know how fertile they are or are considering IVF or just looking for some fertility-related answers, the show offers more than 100 exhibitors and 60 talks and seminars from professionals, including Dr Gillian Lockwood, medical director of MFS.  Dr Lockwood will chair Complementary and Alternative Medicine – can it boost your fertility?, a seminar which will consider the many claims that complementary therapies can improve fertility or even ‘cure’ infertility.  However, amongst the medical profession there is much discussion over the lack of evidence supporting these claims.  Dr Lockwood chairs this session with an introduction outlining some of the views of the medical profession, whilst Gerard Kite of The Kite Clinic, an acupuncture fertility clinic, and Susan Allen of Fertility Reflexology present their experiences in helping those who have struggled to conceive.

For more information, or to book tickets, go to The Fertility Show website.

MFS Patients’ Guide Goes Interactive

Check out the new on-line MFS Patients’ Guide to Services.  The e-brochure has a fully interactive contents page and links throughout the booklet take readers to more information on investigations, treatments, preservation services, costs and success rates throughout the MFS website.  More MFS booklets will become interactive as they are updated.  Let us know what you think.

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Fertility Preservation at MFS on Clinical Research Network Website

Karolina Palinska-Rudzka
Dr Karolina Palinska-Rudzka

MFS’s experience of testing for ovarian reserve for young women with cancer before and after chemotherapy has been included on a website of NHS-approved research studies, the UKCRN.  This offers research teams, including those in hospitals and universities, easy access to all approved studies which are currently available in the UK.  Dr Karolina Palinska-Rudzka, clinical research fellow at MFS, secured the link as part of her MD studies at the University of Warwick, which focuses on the potential and benefits of fertility preservation for young women cancer patients before they begin chemo or radiotherapies and in the years that follow.  Over the next five years, MFS plans to follow-up patients over a five year period to assess their post-chemotherapy ovarian reserve. The study will recruit 50 to 100 reproductive age women newly diagnosed with cancers, needing chemotherapy within the Cancer Network in the West Midlands.

Serum AMH will be measured in patients before starting chemotherapy and with follow-ups at six, nine and 12 months, compared with an age-matched control group without known fertility problems. A five-year follow-up will be performed. Dr Palinska-Rudzka explains: “Inclusion on the UK Clinical Research Network gives researchers the latest information on fertility studies for young women with cancers and provides patients with current information on any studies they may want to participate in, secure in the knowledge that these are bonafide studies.”


The Inspector Called (and Left Happy)

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MFS has successfully completed the most recent inspection by BSI to ensure the unit operates according to the requirements of ISO9001.  In addition to the ‘no outstanding non-conformities to review’ from the previous assessment, no new non-conformities were identified during the day-long inspection, which concentrated on:

  • treatment delivery
  • patient communication
  • incidents, near misses and complaints

In summary, the report concluded that:

  • ‘all staff had good rapport with the patients and were open and accurate in their explanations of procedure, treatments, risks etc. The written procedures relating to these aspects were generally well followed and records were well maintained.
  • ‘brochures, leaflets and website controls were reviewed. There are well established processes for controlling content via the appropriate specialist(s) and approval. The brochures and website are easily navigable and provide comprehensive data on the services, techniques, costs, success rates etc of the organisation.
  • ‘the system for recording and investigating any adverse event is well established and records retained of the investigations and actions taken are generally well maintained.’

“The quality management system at MFS ensures that all staff operate to specific procedures and deliver services according the expected standards,” said Anna Kavanagh, director of quality and business.  “MFS patients and clients may be reassured that they will receive a consistent and continually improving quality service.”

The next BSI inspection will take place in March 2011.

Research into Post-IVF Parenthood

Rachel Clarke is studying for her PhD at the University of Warwick and is undertaking a study into parenting experiences following IVF and ICSI treatment.  She is looking for both mums and dads who have IVF/ICSI conceived babies aged 0 to 12 months and who would like to contribute to the research, which will be conducted via a mailed questionnaire. Responses may be given anonymously.

If you would like to volunteer for this study or would simply like more information, please contact Rachel Clarke by email or call the post-grad office at the University of Warwick on 024 7652 3158.