Julia Chain, pictured, the new chairwoman of the UK's fertility regulator, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is seeking some fundamental changes in the 1990 laws that govern the fertility sector

Julia Chain is currently the chairwoman for the UK’s fertility regulator Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

IVF clinics selling useless “add-ons” that cause couples to spend thousands of pounds will now be fined under a new set of outdated laws.

Julia Chain is the UK’s new head of Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, and she seeks fundamental reforms as part of one of the most significant changes in fertility law history.

Ms Chain seeks the power to make sure that regulators can fine clinics for misrepresenting patients. This will also allow same-sex and transgender couples to have easier access to fertility treatment.

HFEA’s 1990 fertility laws mean that clinics can be given a “slap on their wrist” by HFEA. But Ms Chain took control in April and says that they must have ‘end to end powers’ to prevent some of the most serious offenders.

This add-on procedure can be costly and cost thousands.

They include ‘assisted hatching’ which sees an egg’s outer layer pierced to ‘help the embryo emerge’, and it costs in the region of £550.

It hasn’t been proven to improve success rates, as with most add-ons.

‘Pre-implantation genetic testing’ is supposed to detect abnormal embryos and has a price tag of up to £3,000, but once again has no evidence of reducing the chance of a miscarriage.

Ms Chain spoke with Sunday Times about her plans to announce at Progress Educational Trust Conference on Wednesday, how she intends to increase the powers of the regulator.

According to her, IVF patients are vulnerable and often desperate and will pay thousands of dollars for non-proven treatment that may increase their chance of having a child. 

The 1990 laws that govern the fertility sector means that HFEA can only give clinics a 'slap on the wrist' (file photo)

HFEA is limited by 1990’s laws governing the fertility sector to give clinics only a “slap on their wrists” (file Photo).

She explained that the goal was to control how information is provided by clinics, so vulnerable patients do not get exploited.

“We seek enforcement powers that give us the appropriate power like fines and economic sanctions.

“We require end-to-end power ourselves.

She said that while the act is focused on embryo protection, it does not address protecting patients. It also covers a couple, which is preferably married.

“We are moving on.”

Some sections of the 1990 act work to discredit same-sex partners, who need extra screening. This increases IVF treatment costs.

A mother is defined as “a woman who has or will carry a child due to the placement in her of embryos or sperm or eggs”. 

It can be problematic for women who both want to be legally mothers. For men, this is similar. Legal parent: The woman giving birth until a judge declares the contrary.

“We must look at it as a priority, because it was written at a time where people had differing ideas about what constitutes a family,” she continued. 

“Science has totally outstripped the art.”

Ms Chain wants scientists to be able to use embryos in research after the fourteen-day period. 

Patients coming to IVF clinics are often vulnerable and 'often desperate' and will do anything to improve their chances of starting a family (file image)

IVF clinics often see patients who are vulnerable and “often desperate” and they will try any means to increase their chance of having a child (file image).

In 1990 it was impossible to preserve embryos for longer than two weeks. However, the limit of two weeks was chosen in the event that the embryo began to feel pain.

Researchers now understand that the nervous systems does not begin to develop until several days after. 

Sarah Norcross is director at Progress Educational Trust. She said that the law and regulations that regulate fertility treatment are starting to show their age.

“The views of family definitions have evolved and it is important that non-traditional families are better served.

IVF Extras: What is it?

Some treatment supplements are not proven to increase fertility rates.

These treatments may also be called’supplementary,’ ‘adjuvants or ’embryology treatment’.

While they may claim to increase your chances of having babies, there is little to no evidence. Couples can end up spending thousands and even hundreds of dollars each.

  • Artificial egg activation calcium ionophore
  • Assisted hatching
  • All elective freeze cycles
  • Endometrial Scratching
  • Hyaluronate enriched medium (e.g. EmbryoGlue)
  • Tests for and treatment of fertility with immunology
  • Intracytoplasmic morphologic sperm injection (IMSI)
  • Intrauterine culture
  • The physiological intracytoplasmic and morphologic injection of sperm (PICSI).
  • Genetic testing pre-implantation for aneuploidy
  • Image time-lapse