CofE warns of risk to fertilisation and embryology services

The Church of England has questioned proposals to absorb the services of two specialist health watchdogs into the Care Quality Commission.

The Department of Health is considering transferring the functions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) to the Commission in a move that would save half a million pounds a year.

The HFEA oversees the use of gametes and embryos in fertility treatment and research, while the HTA regulates organisations that remove, store and use tissue for research.

The Church's Mission and Public Affairs (MPA) Council said there were "operational risks" involved in the proposed changes "as these functions require both considerable executive expertise and detailed non-executive scrutiny”.

It pointed to a parliamentary review into proposals to merge the HFEA and HTA into one body which concluded in 2008 that such a move would lead to a significant loss of expertise.

The council said there had been no significant change in the roles of the HFEA and HTA since then "to suggest that a different conclusion would now be reached".

"There are grave concerns with regard to the ability of the Care Quality Commission … to absorb the complexity and volume of the work conducted by the HFEA and HTA,” the council said.

"The question then is whether savings … could really be delivered."

The council welcomed the efficiency savings of 25 per cent at the HFEA and 27 per cent at the HTA since 2010, but advised the bodies to retain their functions while delivering further savings.

The Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy, National Adviser for Medical Ethics and Social Care Policy, said: “There is little doubt that even if the other factors did not militate against disbanding the HFEA and the HTA, the Care Quality Commission is not currently equipped to take on their functions and this is not likely to change for some time to come.”