The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a worldwide suspension of all fertility treatments following national and international guidance. In response to the direct threat of COVID-19 to patients, the wider Scottish population and NHS Scotland services, all NHS funded Scottish centres took the decision collectively not to start any new treatments after 17th March 2020. Those already in middle of their treatment, had their embryos frozen to avoid pregnancy. This was to reduce non-essential treatments and associated travel during the lockdown period. It also released staff and other resources from the fertility sector to COVID-related areas. There was uncertainty of the effect of COVID on pregnancy and pregnancy on susceptibility of COVID infection. This complied with HFEA`s General Direction (GD0014).
While stopping of all treatments happened very quickly, restart is anticipated to be more complex, specifically due to safety measures required for staff and patients in clinic. Although not considered urgent services similar to oncology, fertility treatments are extremely time sensitive with increase in female age being the single most important factor determining the success rates. The Scottish Government has been exemplary in funding fertility services and it is important that these services are provided in a timely manner to be effective and cost effective.
Now that the peak of COVID-19 seems to be over, we need to plan for restarting fertility treatment.