The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has published a new edition of its 'Guide to Infertility'. The Guide contains details of all UK clinics that are licensed under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 to carry out IVF and donor insemination (DI), although it does not contain information on other 'lower-tech treatments' that may be carried out by other doctors or hospitals.
For the first time, the Guide has also been produced as an online, interactive version in which patients may enter in their details and receive tailored information about services and clinics in their area and about particular treatments. It was assembled with the help of healthcare information experts 'Dr Foster' and produced and developed in consultation with patients and clinicians.
The Guide gives information about the causes of infertility and potential treatments, detailed information - including success rates - for 85 individual treatment centres, and 'real-life' patient stories. It shows that the average IVF success rate for women under 35 years old is 27.6 per cent, although some clinics have much higher success rates than others. The most common age at which a woman receives IVF is shown to be 35, but the chances of success decline with age, as the success rates in the Guide show.
The Guide also shows that the average waiting time for IVF treatment on the NHS varies greatly depending on the clinic. The shortest wait was two weeks, while the longest was 156 weeks. This has led critics to claim that NHS-funded IVF is still subject to a 'postcode lottery'. Longer waits for treatment come when the healthcare trust provides fewer funds for IVF - critics said this time difference could have a serious impact on some women's chances of success. Clare Brown, chief executive of Infertility Network UK said that some healthcare trusts must improve their provisions for fertility treatments. 'It is vital that people get treated as quickly as possible to make it a cost effective and clinically effective treatment', she said.
Angela McNab, the HFEA's chief executive, has also said that the authority is going to pilot a 'risk tool' that will mean that 'failing' fertility clinics will undergo higher levels of scrutiny and face greater sanctions. Those clinics with low IVF success rates will be more thoroughly investigated than others, although this will also depend on other factors. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Ms McNab said that the risk tool will 'lighten the regulation and inspection' when 'centres are well-run'. 'That will allow us to put more resources into the clinics that have poor performance rates', she added.