Emily and Ben Scott started their 'IVF Fairness' petition in August 2019, after encountering discrepancies in the number of funded IVF cycles offered in different areas. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that women under 40 should be eligible for three cycles of NHS-funded IVF, but the actual number funded cycles is determined by local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) who often provide fewer (see BioNews 1003). Some CCGs also deny IVF based on criteria that are not mentioned in NICE guidelines, such as relationship status (see BioNews 1012).
The couple called this situation 'confusing' and 'unfair'.
Despite reaching the 10,000 signatures required by the House of Commons for a Government response, an email from the House of Commons petitions team stated that the petition would be closed early as a result of Parliament being dissolved until after the election. The next government will not be obliged to respond.
'Closing petitions abruptly in this way completely disregards the time and energy that goes into campaigning and canvassing for signatures, not to mention the fact that often these petitions relate to deeply personal and sometimes sensitive issues,' Ms Scott told BioNews.
'We are left with the fact that there is no guarantee that we will actually receive a response, despite parliamentary petition guidelines stating that government will respond at 10,000 signatures. In spite of this, we fully intend to hold the next government to account for a response, and are considering whether to restart the petition from scratch'.
Attempts have been made to address the inconsistency in IVF provision across CCGs. In a letter sent on 5 November, the Minister of State for Care, Caroline Dinenage, urged the chairs of the five CCGs in England currently not funding any IVF cycles to change their policies.
'I have discussed this matter with the Secretary of State and we agree that it is an unacceptable situation for no routine local fertility service to be offered. This damages the reputation of the NHS locally and nationally,' she wrote.