Northern Ireland Scotland England Wales

Last updated:

Regulators spared from quango cull

BMA lobbying has helped secure the immediate future of two public bodies due to be scrapped in the government’s ‘bonfire of the quangos’.

The government had proposed transferring the functions of the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) and the HTA (Human Tissue Authority) to the CQC (Care Quality Commission) and the Health Research Authority as part of its review of public bodies.

The move was strongly opposed by a number of organisations, including the BMA.

Ministers have now decided to maintain the HFEA and HTA for the time being, but have launched a review of how they work with the aim of streamlining their activities and possibly sharing membership or leadership functions.

The review, to be undertaken by Health Protection Agency chief executive Justin McCracken, will also consider whether a merger of the two is feasible.

Essential services

BMA director of professional activities Vivienne Nathanson said the association was pleased that its views, along with those of other professional and patient groups, had been heeded, and that its calls for a review to help develop fertility and tissue regulation were being acted upon.

She said: ‘The HFEA and the HTA carry out very important, complex and sensitive work. It is essential that what they do is protected and enhanced by future reviews.’

In its response to the quango review, the BMA was particularly concerned about the loss of specialist expertise, particularly in the HFEA and the impact this could have on public confidence in such a sensitive area.

It also expressed concern about the ability of the CQC to take on such complex work, given its increasing workload.

Enough political meddling

Former HFEA member Peter Braude, a London emeritus professor of obs and gynae, said he was delighted the government had listened and revised its plans.

But he added that he was concerned by the proposal to merge the two bodies, a suggestion rejected by a parliamentary committee scrutinising the draft Human Tissues and Embryos Bill in 2007.

Professor Braude said: 'There has been enough money wasted trying ineffectively to reorganise these regulators – joint working and improvement by all means, but enough meddling for political ends. It is patient safety and professional probity that matters.'

Announcing the review, the Department of Health said the views of ‘significant organisations such as the BMA’ had played a part in its decision.

Mr McCracken is due to report to ministers in April.