Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420 - 432)

WEDNESDAY 21 JULY 2004

PROFESSOR BRIAN TOFT

  Q420  Dr Iddon: Do you get the feeling that there might be better ways of governing quality control in these clinics; for example by technical accreditation or in any other way?

  Professor Toft: Indeed. Any way which improves the system has to be wanted. So, yes, there are quality assurance techniques and so forth. However, I would also say that they themselves can fall down, so the more you can put in the better. If you get too complicated, you then start to create a situation where errors are bound to occur anyway.

  Q421  Dr Iddon: You mentioned other adverse incidents—I think, nine. Are you able to say what those were and whether other clinics have been made aware of them so that they can avoid falling into the same traps?

  Professor Toft: The events I was told about were to do with embryos being implanted in the wrong woman. I am under the impression that that information has now been given to the clinics.

  Q422  Dr Harris: It is your view—coming back to the issue the Chairman asked you about initially—that the HFEA did not work that closely with you in the preparation of your report.

  Professor Toft: That is correct.

  Q423  Dr Harris: Why do you think the Department of Health state in their response to your report that, "Both the HFEA and the trust have worked closely with Professor Toft in the course of the review?"

  Professor Toft: That is because after the change of executive they did work very closely with me. You did say "in preparation of my report" and that was right at the very beginning, as I started to try to take evidence. But subsequently they worked very closely with me. I did establish a very good working relationship with HFEA eventually.

  Q424  Dr Harris: Towards the end?

  Professor Toft: It would be absolutely true to say that following the appointment of Angela McNab my relationship with the authority changed completely.

  Q425  Dr Harris: Were you disappointed that the Department of Health's response seems to suggest that there was not an initial problem?

  Professor Toft: No, I think, writ large, it is accurate. It was right at the very beginning. There were problems, these problems were sorted out, and from then on I think things went very smoothly.

  Q426  Dr Turner: You mentioned nine untoward incidents.

  Professor Toft: I think that is the number.

  Q427  Dr Turner: Well, give or take.

  Professor Toft: Yes.

  Q428  Dr Turner: Did you form any impression as to whether this was a true figure or whether there may have been other incidents which went unreported?

  Professor Toft: That is very hard for me to say—in fact, it is impossible for me to say. I cannot say what people did not say; all I can say is that I believe that when the research was done by the authority, effectively by Angela McNab and her people, that was a true reflection of what they found.

  Q429  Chairman: The last question—I am back on Sir Liam Donaldson: Did he send you a thank you letter at all?

  Professor Toft: I have to say that he did not.

  Q430  Chairman: He did not?

  Professor Toft: I have not received one.

  Q431  Chairman: Not even a Christmas card.

  Professor Toft: Not even a Christmas card.

  Q432  Chairman: Do you think he read the report?

  Professor Toft: I think he did read the report. Of course, I could not possibly know whether he actually read the report or not.

  Chairman: Professor Toft, thank you very much indeed for your frankness. It has helped us to orientate ourselves for the next session.





 
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