Following the lockdown measures introduced by the government in late March 2020 to try to prevent the spread of Covid-19, fertility treatment in the UK was suspended. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) directed fertility clinics to cease new treatments, and to complete any existing treatments by 15 April 2020. 

The complete suspension of fertility treatment was lifted by the HFEA on 11 May 2020, allowing a limited number of treatments to resume. However, the HFEA required individual clinics to make formal applications for permission to reopen. Since 11 May, most of the country's largest and best-regarded clinics have obtained permission to reopen and restart treatment. In order to do so, they have had to satisfy the HFEA that they have an adequate 'Covid-19 treatment commencement strategy' in place, which includes being able to demonstrate that they can provide a sufficiently safe environment for both patients and staff. 

Key points to bear in mind are:

1. Because of the delays caused to some prospective parents' fertility treatments by the Covid-19 crisis, the government has announced that the storage limit for eggs, sperm and embryos will be increased from 10 years to 12 years.   

2. The HFEA has not issued any instructions to clinics as to which treatments to prioritise, save that it is understood that those requiring urgent 'fertility preservation' procedures, primarily as a result of cancer treatment, will come first. 

3. The HFEA has warned patients to continue to expect delays, because social distancing and other necessary safety measures will mean that clinics will probably not be able to treat as many patients at once as they usually would. 

4. The HFEA has been pushing NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to extend funding for fertility treatment, particularly to those who will now be over the usual age limit for public funding as a result of the delays caused by Covid-19. However, the HFEA cannot force CCGs to do this. 

If you need advice on issues around fertility law and parenthood, including relating to surrogacy arrangements, please contact Tom Burgess on 07809 091 487 or at tom.burgess@freeths.co.uk