Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

MLA hails watchdog's intervention in fertility clinic row

Health committee deputy chairman Jim Wells has said he’s relieved the healthcare regulator is “showing its teeth” after it issued a notice to a private Belfast fertility clinic which could force the unit to stop admitting new patients.

Origin Fertility Care — located in east Belfast — has been issued with a ‘notice of proposal’ by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA).

The clinic closed voluntarily for two weeks in June which it said was to “ensure the company meets the highest possible standards”. But following a number of inspections this year, the RQIA said the centre had failed to “demonstrate sustained improvement on concerns identified” during previous inspections.

That included concerns regarding complaints systems, the keeping of patient records and staff supervision.

Mr Wells said he hoped the “intervention will put the clinic back on an even keel”.

Following the notice of proposal issued by RQIA — which could see the centre “cease admissions or referrals of new patients until further notice” — Origin will have 28 days to appeal.

The healthcare centre — which helps couples around Northern Ireland to become pregnant — is defending itself and challenging the regulator’s decision.

Origin said it was seeking “legal recourse” in order to protect “its good name and reputation”. The company said it was “extremely disappointed to note that the RQIA” had recently published a report without providing the clinic with an “opportunity to respond notwithstanding a timescale set by the RQIA itself”.

Responding to the regulator’s issuing of the notice, managing director Jenny Hill said: “We recognise the RQIA has a statutory responsibility to ensure the safety of services provided to the public, but we are satisfied that systems now in place ensure a high standard of service to patients.”

Mr Wells said the latest “stepping in” by the regulator had shown the body was “working” and “not scared to show their teeth and take action”.

”Hopefully as as result of this intervention this clinic will be put back on an even keel,” said Mr Wells.

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