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King's College London - Health: More than a medical matter

Level of IVF funding in UK among lowest in Europe

09 July 2012

By Julianna Photopoulos

Appeared in BioNews 664

The funding of fertility treatment in the UK is among the lowest in Europe, according to a new study presented at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology's annual meeting in Istanbul, Turkey.

Lead author Dr Mark Connolly, from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, compared fertility policies across 23 European countries. The UK came third from the bottom on a scale devised by the authors to indicate the level of public funding for IVF treatment and had one of the lowest number of 'assisted reproduction technology' cycles per million people.

Only Russia and Ireland offered lower levels of public funding, whereas Belgium, France, Slovenia, Montenegro and Italy had the most generous policies. In Belgium, for example, there were almost 2,500 cycles per million people, compared with 825 cycles in the UK.

Dr Connolly said 'there was a highly significant relationship between high levels of public reimbursement and high levels of utilisation'.

'If one considers medical need is similar across countries then the data here suggest a great unmet need in those countries with limited reimbursement', he added.

Guidance issued by the UK's National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence, which has published a draft update of the guideline for consultation, states that PCTs should offer infertile women from 23 to 39 years old up to three cycles of IVF treatment. Each cycle costs around £3,000 when funded privately.

Nevertheless, the final decision about the level of IVF funding is made by individual PCTs. Dr Connolly said 'most English PCTs were feeble in their ability at providing IVF'.

Many couples are not able to access IVF because of funding decisions taken by their PCT or health board. 'It is totally unacceptable that many other European countries have better service provision for infertility patients than the UK, where IVF was pioneered', said Clare Lewis-Jones from the National Infertility Awareness Campaign.

She added: 'Infertility treatment has for too long been seen as a low priority, failing the one in six couples who live with the devastating impact this illness has on their lives'.

Around 13,000 babies are born every year in the UK with the help of IVF and ICSI techniques. However, this new study shows that number could be up to three times higher, if UK policies matched those of the most generous countries.


Free IVF linked to birth rate rise
Press Association | 02 July 2012
BBC News | 02 July 2012
European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) | 02 July 2012
European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) | 02 July 2012
Daily Telegraph | 02 July 2012


01 October 2012 - by Jessica Ware 
NHS Fife will no longer provide fertility treatment to couples if either of them smokes, or if the woman is overweight. In the same week, the Scottish Government has pledged to invest £12 million over the next three years to reduce waiting times for infertility treatment across Scotland... [Read More]
03 September 2012 - by Clare Lewis-Jones MBE 
Last summer the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC) launched its most comprehensive patient survey to date. The aim of the survey was to identify problems faced by people seeking NHS-funded fertility treatment... [Read More]
16 July 2012 - by Jessica Ware 
Couples undergoing fertility treatment in Gloucestershire will soon have access to three NHS-funded cycles of IVF treatment instead of just one. Eligibility criteria will also be widened, it was announced this month... [Read More]

02 July 2012 - by Louisa Ghevaert 
The inconsistent and inadequate provision of IVF treatment on the NHS is an unacceptable way to treat the one in seven UK couples (3.5 million people) currently affected by infertility... [Read More]
02 July 2012 - by Suzanne Elvidge 
A study estimates that five million people worldwide have been born thanks to assisted reproductive technologies... [Read More]
16 January 2012 - by Jessica Ware 
The number of publicly funded IVF cycles dropped by nearly 14 percent this financial year in the UK, an investigation by the GP magazine Pulse has revealed... [Read More]
21 November 2011 - by Dr Gabrielle Samuel 
There was a six percent rise last year in the number of fertility treatments carried out in the UK, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)... [Read More]

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