WORRIES OVER NHS SAUDI FERTILITY DEAL; Hospital to Make Profits from the Middle East EXCLUSIVE

Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England), April 21, 2014 | Go to article overview

WORRIES OVER NHS SAUDI FERTILITY DEAL; Hospital to Make Profits from the Middle East EXCLUSIVE


Byline: OLIVER DUGGAN @OliDuggan

A LIVERPOOL hospital is to profit from offering fertility treatments in Saudi Arabia, sparking concerns from human rights experts of NHS involvement in discrimination. Liverpool Women's Hospital has revealed plans to expand the Hewitt Fertility Centre through schemes in the middle eastern country as well as in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Details of the plans for "international expansion" remain a closely guarded secret, but the hospital has confirmed they intend to open clinics "set up in the same way as in the UK".

Kathryn Thomson, the hospital's chief executive, said their work to "improve patient care" in the Middle East would generate a profit that would fund Liverpool health services.

She said: "We are currently working on schemes in three countries - United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

"Fertility problems are common in every country. In the UK, one in six couples have difficulty conceiving. Our aim is to help improve patient care in other countries.

"The benefit to the Liverpool Women's Hospital is that a surplus will be achieved and this additional income will be spent on our Liverpool-based NHS services."

However, ethical concerns have been raised by Saudi Arabia experts, who warn the NHS Trust could be complicit in discrimination that restricts women's access to health care.

According to Amnesty International research, women in Saudi Arabia regularly require the permission of a male "guardian" to seek medical care including fertility treatments. Adam Coogle, a Saudi Arabia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: "There is a complex web of rules that means women are treated as minors by male guardians for the entire life. …

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