Chair of Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority

Body: Department of Health and Social Care
Appointing Department: Department of Health
Sector: Health
Location: London
Number of Vacancies: 1
Remuneration: £47,360 per annum
Time Requirements: 2 to 3 days per week

Campaign Timeline

  • Competition Launched


  • Closed for Applications

    14/12/2020 at 12:00

  • Panel Sift

    Early January (tbc)

  • Final Interview Date


  • Announcement



Assessment Panel

Vacancy Description

Ministers are seeking to appoint a new Chair of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA).

Role and Responsibilities of the Chair

The Chair of the HFEA is accountable to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and will:

  • provide leadership, challenge and direction to the organisation, encouraging and enabling the HFEA to be a first-class regulator of fertility services and embryo research
  • ensure that the HFEA carries out its statutory functions under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, as amended, and meets the Government’s policies and priorities for the sector, complying with directions and guidance issued by the Secretary of State
  • in partnership with the Chief Executive, set the tone for excellent working relationships between the HFEA and key stakeholders to ensure the confidence in the work of the HFEA of those who use services, the wider public, the regulated sector, Government and Parliament
  • work with the Authority to ensure resources are managed effectively with a focus on the development of HFEA staff, reflecting the organisation’s role and values as a first-class regulator
  • build, develop and improve the Authority, providing guidance and support to all Authority members, ensuring their effective induction, support and development and advising the Department of Health and Social Care on their performance.


Person Specification

The Department of Health and Social Care values and promotes diversity and encourages applications from all sections of the community. The boards of public bodies should reflect the population they are there to serve. Boards also benefit from fresh perspectives, and we are always keen to encourage candidates with private sector experience to consider applying for our roles.

Essential Criteria

Legislation requires that the Chair cannot be a registered Medical Practitioner or any person with current or past involvement with treatment or research using human sperm, eggs or embryos.

To be considered, you must be able to demonstrate that you have the qualities, skills and experience to meet all the essential criteria for appointment.

  • ability to lead organisational improvement as the Chair of a complex, national organisation
  • ability to drive forward the highest standards of performance, risk and financial management and board level public sector accountability
  • effective in public communication, able to set the tone for excellent working relationships between the HFEA and its stakeholders
  • a high-level understanding of some of the key diversity, equality and human rights issues that can influence the work of the HFEA, with a commitment to applying best practice

Additional Information

The HFEA was established by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 and came into operation on 1 August 1991. The HFEA has an annual budget of £7m funded through a mix of fee income and Government grant-in-aid. There are around 70 staff members.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 sets out prohibitions relating to the creation, use and storage of human embryos and human admixed embryos, and the use and storage of human gametes. Some of these prohibitions are absolute – for example, a human embryo can never be placed in an animal or vice versa. Other activities can be carried out provided that a licence has been granted by the HFEA. Licences can be granted to any person – including those working in the NHS and those working in independent establishments.

In 2007, as a result of the implementation of three EU Directives setting quality and safety standards for human tissue and cells intended for human application, the HFEA’s remit was extended to cover the licensing and regulation of the donation, procurement, testing, processing, preservation and distribution of gametes and embryos. The HFEA also became one of two competent authorities for the Directives. The UK’s Exit from the EU mean that this relationship will change going forward, although the UK’s high standards will remain.

The HFEA has the power to license the following activities in the course of providing fertility treatment (for example, in vitro fertilisation (IVF)):

  • bringing about the creation of a human embryo outside the body
  • procuring, keeping, testing, processing or distributing human embryos
  • procuring, keeping, testing, processing or distributing gametes
  • using human embryos for training others in embryological techniques
  • ensuring human embryos are in a suitable condition to be used in treatment
  • placing human embryos in a woman
  • carrying out testing of sperm
  • other activities specified in regulations

In addition, the HFEA can license activities as part of a project of research involving human embryos (and human admixed embryos), provided they are necessary or desirable for:

  • increasing knowledge about serious disease or other serious medical conditions
  • developing treatments for serious disease or other serious medical conditions
  • increasing knowledge about the causes of congenital disease or congenital medical conditions
  • promoting advances in the treatment of infertility
  • increasing knowledge about the causes of miscarriage
  • developing more effective techniques of contraception
  • developing methods for detecting the presence of gene, chromosome or mitochondrion abnormalities in embryos before implantation increasing knowledge about the development of embryos so long as the use of an embryo is necessary

The HFEA can also grant licences for the procurement and distribution of sperm in the course of providing non-medical fertility services[1] and for the storage of gametes, embryos and human admixed embryos.

Ethical Safeguards

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 contains a number of ethical safeguards, some examples of which are described below.

The principle of informed consent is key in that gametes, embryos and other human tissue, the use of which is governed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, can only be used for treatment or research purposes with the informed and clearly expressed consent of the person(s) providing the tissue. Where such consent cannot be given, in a very limited number of circumstances, use of the tissue can only take place if strict conditions can be met.

The restrictions of the use of human embryos in treatment and research and of particular techniques in assisted reproduction underpin the licensing provisions set out in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

Clinics are required to make a mandatory assessment of the welfare of any child that might be born as a result of treatment, or any existing child that may be affected, as part of the process of determining a patient’s suitability for treatment.

Licensing and Inspection

There are currently approximately 130 HFEA-licensed establishments providing treatments and/or related services, or carrying out embryo research[2]. Every licence designates an individual who has the responsibility, under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, for the proper operation of the establishment and its compliance with the Act, all licence conditions and the HFEA’s code of practice. This individual is described as the Person Responsible.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 currently requires the HFEA to carry out an on-site inspection of all licensed establishments a minimum of once every two years. The HFEA inspection team evaluate and monitor:

  • premises, equipment and facilities
  • laboratory processes
  • documentation, including standard patient information
  • the ability of the establishment to provide the services it offers
  • the suitability of the person responsible and staff providing the services

As part of its licensing function, the HFEA also assesses applications from establishments to use novel or adjusted treatment techniques and to test embryos for the presence of inheritable genetic conditions. Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is a technique used to screen embryos before implantation, as part of an IVF treatment cycle, to exclude those with a serious genetic condition. The procedure is intended to help couples at risk of passing on a serious inheritable genetic condition to their offspring. None of these activities can take place without the HFEA’s prior approval.

Linked to its regulatory functions, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 enables the HFEA to issue directions and requires it to maintain a code of practice setting out appropriate standards of practice for the delivery of treatments, fertility services and embryo research that all licensed clinics and research centres are required to observe.

Key non-licensing functions

There are a number of functions carried out by the HFEA that are not part of the licensing process but are integral to fulfilling the aims set out in legislation:

Maintaining Registers: The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 requires the HFEA to keep registers, notably one that records every treatment cycle, patient, gamete/embryo donor and all resulting offspring. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 also sets out the circumstances in which identifying information held on this register may be disclosed to third parties.

Sharing research information: The administration of a scheme for researchers to apply to receive access to identifying information held on the treatment register where it is not practicable to obtain consent to the disclosure from the persons to whom the information relates[3].

Providing information: The HFEA also has a statutory duty to provide a range of information to stakeholders, including patients and licensed establishments. Currently, the HFEA does this by:

  • publishing advice and information for patients and the public about fertility treatments and services, including the online Choose a Fertility Clinic guide
  • providing information and guidance for licensed establishments and healthcare professionals on topical issues via bulletins and also Chair’s letters
  • responding to individual queries, verbally and in writing, from the fertility and wider healthcare sectors and the public

Further information on the HFEA and what it does can be found at:

The HFEA’s latest strategy document can be found at:

HFEA Code of Practice is available here:

There are 6 Authority Board meetings a year. Usually on a Wednesday, every two months. Face-to-face meeting at a London venue, although currently taking place on-line through Microsoft Teams. Meetings set for 11 November 2020 and 21 January 2021.

Statement from the current Chair

Dear applicant,

The HFEA has been the UK’s regulator of fertility treatment and embryo research for almost 30 years, created to make policy and regulate standards for the fertility sector following the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first IVF baby, in 1978. Millions of children around the world have now been born through assisted conception and the UK continues to lead embryo research globally, most recently with Parliament approving the use of mitochondrial donation techniques to prevent serious inherited disease.

I have been proud to chair the HFEA since 2014 and to see our reputation grow as an internationally renowned and respected organisation that allows innovation to flourish within a robust ethical framework. Quality of care is at the heart of everything we do and my tenure as Chair has been characterised by an absolute focus on patients and the care they receive, including those undergoing fertility treatment, donors and donor-conceived people and those seeking to eradicate serious genetic disease from their families.

We are a small body with less than 70 staff but we monitor global scientific developments which could reach patient treatment in the years to come, make policy and advise Ministers, Parliament and Government alongside our core functions of setting standards, licensing research projects and treatment clinics and maintaining a register of all UK fertility treatments, the largest database of its kind in the world.

We have recently launched our new strategy through to 2024, following a period in which we have managed our sector and our staff through the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 epidemic, being the first health sector to reopen for patients. Our relationships with the fertility sector and all our stakeholders are better than they have ever been, and we continue to do all we can to uphold and improve standards in fertility care and treatment, so that as many people as possible can achieve their much longed-for family. This role really is at the heart of creating life, and I am constantly reminded what a privileged role our Board members have and how interesting and rewarding our work is.

Those lay and professional members bring a huge variety of experience and expertise to their role from genetics, fertility medicine, counselling, science and research, communications and the media, faith, ethics, business and the law. If you are successful in your application, you would have the chance to lead this incredibly talented, visionary and thoughtful team in the best interests of all those who need our services. As science and society advance, the HFEA needs to shape and respond to future changes in the legislative landscape and the changing fields of modern family creation, genetics, and artificial intelligence.

It is a huge privilege to be able to contribute to policy and licensing decisions in such an innovative and ethically contested area of medicine. In all my years as a public sector leader I have never had such a rewarding role and I hope you will consider applying to be our next Chair.

Sally Cheshire – Chair Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

[1] Non-medical fertility services are those where donated sperm is provided for home insemination, usually via the internet, but no other treatment related service is provided.

[2] In the case of treatment and other fertility related services the licence authorises an establishment to carry out a treatment or service. In the case of research licences, the licence relates to a specific project, so a research centre conducting a number of projects involving the use of embryos could have two or more licences.

[3] A scheme established by section 33D of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, as amended, and, currently, The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Disclosure of Information for Research Purposes) Regulations 2010.

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HFEA Candidate Information Pack FINAL
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