Apology as sperm destroyed at Cardiff IVF Wales clinic

The Cardiff and Vale University Health Board apologised after patients' frozen sperm samples were accidentally destroyed

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Health officials have apologised after patients' frozen sperm samples were accidentally destroyed.

Two senior IVF Wales staff resigned after samples from three people who were patients between 1988 and 1998 were affected in March this year.

But Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said the ability of the patients to become parents was not harmed.

The health board hosts the IVF Wales clinic and said it had learned lessons and was working to improve procedures.

The Welsh government has urged the board to take urgent action.

The concerns were highlighted in a report by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates IVF centres in the UK.

In one case, a staff member was told to transfer samples - including some from cancer patients - from old storage units to a new container.

Analysis - Hywel Griffith, BBC Wales health correspondent

The first incident involved some sperm samples being found at the bottom of the freezer tank. They were not labelled and they were destroyed by a member of staff in an action that was not witnessed, as it was meant to be.

Now we understand these samples only involved three patients and we are told their chances of having children in the future will not be affected because other samples existed.

However, there was also a second incident where frozen samples were used without the proper screening checks having taken place.

So they were both serious events investigated by the regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

Earlier this year both the head of centre, Janet Evans, and the head embryologist at IVF Wales resigned.

We did not know until now that this was why.

However, just as serious for the centre, we have been told by the HFEA report about declining success rates and concerns about staffing levels there.

Both things will need to be addressed by the current regime.

The member of staff found unlabelled straws at the bottom of a tank and disposed of them without telling anyone in charge and without having a second person as a witness.

In a second incident, donor sperm was given to some women before the test results had come back for sexually transmitted diseases.

However, the report said the results had since proved negative.

The staff members who have resigned since the incidents included Janet Evans, the centre's head. The other was the head of embryology, who raised serious concerns about the safe and efficient running of the centre when she left.

The HFEA said the matters were investigated and conditions were issued against the clinic's licence, reducing the number of cycles of treatment it can carry out.

'Action plan'

Dr Graham Shortland, medical director for Cardiff and Vale UHB, said: "The UHB would like to offer its sincere apologies to any patient who has been caused unnecessary distress as a result of recent media coverage.

"Any patient who has concerns should contact IVF Wales in the first instance.

Start Quote

This is another incredibly serious incident at the unit in question and it requires urgent answers, both from the health board and the minister”

End Quote Darren Millar AM Conservative

"IVF Wales has learned lessons from this experience and continues to work closely with the regulators to ensure ongoing improvement to systems and processes, in line with an agreed action plan.

"Management arrangements within IVF Wales have also been changed to provide an improved focus on quality and performance monitoring. We continue to operate within the licence requirements."

The Welsh government said: "Whilst this is an operational matter for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, we are concerned about the findings of the report.

"We expect them to continue to take urgent action to address the areas highlighted."

Conservative health spokesman Darren Millar said: "This is another incredibly serious incident at the unit in question and it requires urgent answers, both from the health board and the minister.

"It is deplorable that the full extent of this dreadful mistake is not yet known.

"The impact on families will be enormous and it is only right that those affected are spoken to as soon as possible."

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