29th April 2020, 10:30 am

There has been a warm reception for Monday’s announcement from the Government granting a two-year extension to the period legally permitted for fertility clinics to store frozen eggs, sperm and embryos for use in assisted fertility procedures.

The extension increases the routine storage period from 10 to 12 years, in order to allow additional time for the resumption of fertility services which are currently on hold because of coronavirus.

Health minister, Lord Bethell, explained that the move is to ensure “…those that have embryos, sperm or eggs stored as part of their treatment are not unfairly caught out by the existing storage limits and have the best possible opportunity to start their family in the future.”

Sally Cheshire, chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has welcomed the government announcement and stated that the HFEA will be issuing guidance to individual clinics on implementing the new extension.

Family law expert Sarah Wood-Heath, a partner with Clarke Willmott LLP, said: “This is such an important and reassuring step being taken by the Government.

“Undergoing fertility treatment is a difficult and emotional process anyway, and with the difficulties presented by Covid 19 it has been a concern that if patients are unable to proceed with treatment their frozen embryos or gametes may have been destroyed once the 10 year time limit was met.

“Patients can now feel reassured that although fertility treatment is currently suspended, once clinical procedures resume they should be able to continue with treatment as previously planned and use the embryos and gametes they already have in storage.”

One of the few lawyers in the UK who specialises in specialist parenting law, Sarah Wood-Heath regularly provides legal advice to clients building families through assisted reproduction, including conceiving through donor conception, co-parenting arrangements and surrogacy.

Clarke Willmott is a national law firm with seven offices across the country in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton. For more information visit .

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