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MP Steve McCabe calls for end to postcode lottery in Ten Minute Rule Bill

23 April 2018
Appeared in BioNews 946

A new Ten Minute Rule Bill was introduced on 18 April which, if passed, will end the IVF 'postcode lottery' in the UK.

Labour's Steve McCabe, who represents Birmingham Selly Oak, became aware of the extent of variation in IVF services across the country when some of his constituents were refused the treatment because of new eligibility criteria drawn up by their local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

'I have to confess I don't understand how it can be right that within a single NHS, people who live in Thurrock or Luton can have access to a full NHS fertility service while my constituents don't,' McCabe wrote in a blog for the Huffington Post

'My bill would aim to eliminate regional variations in access to IVF. It calls for an end to arbitrary access criteria and says all CCGs should make fertility treatment available in line with NICE guidelines,' he added.

Roughly 3.5 million people in the UK are thought to have fertility problems, and while NICE guidance recommends that women up to the age of 42 who meet certain criteria are offered a number of IVF cycles, CCGs are not obliged to implement this. Indeed, the most recent audit of CCGs by the campaign group Fertility Fairness showed that only 12 percent of CCGs offered the three full cycles of IVF recommended for women under 40 years old.

McCabe also aims to develop national pricing, to put an end to CCGs justifying restricting access to IVF services because of cost. McCabe's research shows that the price for one full cycle can be more than four times as much in some parts of the country than in the areas where treatment is cheapest. 

'It seems ridiculous that the cost of exactly the same NHS treatment can range from £1,343 to £5,788 in different parts of the country,' he wrote.

The bill is being supported by Professor Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and Aileen Feeney, chief executive of Fertility Network UK. 

'Access to fertility treatment should be dependent on your medical need – and not your postcode and pay packet. The UK pioneered IVF 40 years ago but that achievement literally means nothing if only those who can afford to pay for fertility treatment benefit from it,' said Feeney.

The second reading of the bill will take place on 23 November. 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Access to Fertility Services Bill 2017-19
UK Parliament |  23 April 2018
IVF Access Should Be Dependent On Your Need, Not Your Post Code Or Bank Balance
Huffington Post |  17 April 2018
IVF on the NHS: Labour MP demands all women given fair and equal access
i News |  17 April 2018
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