Birmingham sperm bank pulls plug after just a handful of recruits

Most enthusiastic bankers are in London and the South East

The UK's only NHS sperm bank has stopped recruiting donors after a trawl for men prepared to schlep to Birmingham to make a deposit turned up a mere handful.

The National Sperm Bank, based at the National Gamete Donation Trust and Birmingham Fertility Centre, at Birmingham Women's Hospital, was launched two years ago with a grant of £77,000.

But two years on, it had only pulled in seven accredited donors – and one of them has since pulled out, according to a report on the BBC.

The centre was kicked off with a grant of just £77,000 – hardly splashing out. Apparently the aim was for the centre to be self-sufficient within a year.

However, the Beeb reports that former NGDT chief exec Laura Spoelstra said not enough was done to put the centre on a firm financial footing.

"Once you have a donor at least 70 per cent along the process, you have income," she said. "It's a business model. It required a business way of thinking. Once you know you've got income in the pipeline, you can use that to offset costs."

Those costs must be considerable. In the UK, sperm donors are paid a set sum of £35 a visit – whether to the NHS bank, or its private equivalents. While private sperm banks, such as the London Sperm Bank, charge in the region of a grand for a single withdrawal, the Birmingham centre was planning a much more pocket-friendly £300.

That might still sound like a massive mark-up but, you'll be pleased to hear, donors and their donations have to be checked for genetic or other disorders – and of course for general liveliness.

The NSB is now distributing its rather paltry assets to fertility centres around the country. In future, anyone who cannot avail themselves of traditional sperm sources will still be able to turn to the private sector – which apparently is largely based in London and the South East. Which we’re guessing means that men in that part of the country are just that bit more generous. Doesn't it? ®

Bootnote

You can find out more about the ins and outs of being a donor, including the legal and health issues, here. It would seem height is really, really important.

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