Changes are set to be implemented by October 2012, from which date women over 23 years old will have access to up to three cycles on the NHS. Previously, the minimum age requirement for patients was 30; the upper age limit of 39 remains the same.
The new policy is a joint venture between NHS Swindon and NHS Gloucester who up until now have had differing commissioning policies for fertility treatment. NHS Swindon allows three IVF cycles, compared to just one cycle currently commissioned by NHS Gloucester. The increase is expected to cost an extra £1.5 million per year, but this figure could be less depending on how the service is contracted.
From October, one policy will cover both
PCTs and is largely in line with guidance issued by the National Institute for
Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) - although NICE has recently published a
draft guideline stating that women up to 42 years old should be eligible for fertility treatment on the NHS.
NHS Gloucestershire has not said whether all of the proposed criteria will be applied to prospective patients, but the PCT's medical director Dr Liz Mearns said it 'will review its criteria for access to IVF treatment when NICE publishes its revised guidance, following the consultation process'.
Commenting on the announcement, Clare Lewis-Jones, chair of National Infertility Awareness Campaign, said: 'We hope that this increase from one to three cycles will be the first step towards full implementation of the NICE guideline in all PCTs, which will allow patients to access the level of treatment they deserve'.