31 October 2011
ByAppeared in BioNews 631
The information has further fuelled the 'post-code lottery' debate surrounding IVF provision, as it comes at the same time as news that couples in other parts of England miss out.
In 2008 an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, changed the original reference of 'the need for a father' to 'the need for supportive parenting', when considering fertility treatment. Critics of this change have called on Prime Minister David Cameron to tackle these geographical inconsistencies and begin to put families first.
'It's clearly wrong that while couples in stable relationships can't get IVF and in other areas, single women can', said Labour MP Frank Field.
There are 151 PCTs in England and, of the 135 who responded to the Daily Telegraph's enquiries, 24 said they offered IVF to single women.
However a spokesperson for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) believes the figures do not tell the full picture, explaining that the majority of single women are believed to privately fund their fertility treatment, taking some pressure off the NHS.
'I know this is a sensitive issue, but I truly believe single women have just as much of a right to a child as couples do', said Elizabeth Pearce, who became the first single parent to have a baby from NHS-funded IVF in July of this year.
'There are more single women wanting to have treatment with donor sperm', explained head of policy at the HFEA, Juliet Tizzard, at a public meeting last week.
The new research follows a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) published earlier in 2011, which found large variations between IVF opportunities offered by health authorities. It stated that 73 percent of PCTs were failing to offer three cycles of IVF, as specified by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), and that five trusts offered no IVF at all. Of these five, NHS West Sussex has started funding IVF again.
Anastasia de Waal, director of family and education at the think-tank Civitas, noted: 'The important thing is that the funding is done in an equitable way. It does seem like it is very confused and potentially unfair'.