Last year a survey by British Infertility Counselling Association (BICA) and Infertility Network UK (INUK) revealed some worrying findings about counselling in licensed UK fertility clinics. 214 patients were asked whether they were offered counselling as part of treatment, how its relevance was explained to them, and their experiences of counselling.
The survey showed some infertility clinics are breaching their licensing conditions with one third of infertility patients not being offered counselling.
It is a mandatory requirement by the HFEA that patients are routinely offered counselling and its value is explained to them, yet clinics did not always meet this requirement.
- 33% of respondents said they were not offered counselling
- 20% were not aware that counselling was offered at their clinic
- Of those who were aware, 61% felt the potential benefits of counselling were not made clear to them.
Ruth Wilde, outgoing chair of BICA, said:
“Counselling is an integral part of infertility treatment, not a luxury, yet many people are not even being offered information about counselling and how it could be of benefit to them before, during and after treatment. Clinics have a duty of care to their patients and the HFEA makes it clear that the offer of counselling is a mandatory part of this care in a defined set of circumstances. Infertility is an extremely stressful procedure with huge potentially long term emotional consequences and patients should expect to have access to counselling support as part of this process.
“The issue is not simply about patients being made aware of counselling, it is about how it is offered and the value and emphasis attributed to it. The survey reflects what we as practitioners know, but clinics and clinicians sometimes fail to understand – that it is not just about offering counselling as a box-ticking exercise, but about communicating the reasons and benefits for having it.
“There is support out there: BICA seeks to continually raise the standard of support offered to people affected by fertility issues and involuntary childlessness and to help them access the right help. Everyone having licensed treatment should be able to see an infertility counsellor through his or her clinic.”
I N UK’s chief executive, Susan Seenan, said:
“We know from the people who talk to us every single day that the emotional impact of infertility is as devastating as ever. The sorrow, anger, and frustration that can come with prolonged fertility problems invade every area of life and people need the right help and support to help them cope. That clearly isn’t happening anywhere near as often as it should be.
“This survey has shown what we have long suspected and we will be working with BICA and the HFEA and push for changes to ensure patients are getting the full package of care. Counselling can be a lifeline and clinics are failing patients if they overlook this.”
It’s sad to hear of people not getting the help need when undergoing fertility treatment. Here at Fertility Support we provided counselling for couples at all stages including implications counselling. Please contact us in confidence to find out how we can help.