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NHS Trusts fail to deliver IVF pledge

9 October 2006
Appeared in BioNews 379

A survey conducted by a UK newspaper, The Independent, has revealed that nine out of ten NHS PCTs have failed to deliver their pledge of three free IVFtreatments for infertile couples, as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Financial strain on NHS resources has meant that trusts have been cutting back on their IVF services, denying infertile couples a chance to conceive and creating a 'postcode lottery' in access to IVF treatment.

NICE recommended in 2004 that women between 23 and 39, who have been unsuccessfully trying to conceive for three years or more, should be offered three cycles of IVF by their local PCT. John Reid, the Secretary for Health at the time, said that he hoped by 2005 all trusts would be able to offer at least one course of IVF for qualifying couples.

Over seventy PCTs were surveyed, which amounts to around half the total number in the UK. Two thirds of trusts surveyed only provided one cycle of IVF treatment while 17 per cent provided two cycles. Just six per cent of trusts managed to reach the requirement set by NICE of three cycles of IVF. This situation is not set to improve, with only three trusts indicating that they had plans to reach the NICE target and many trusts cutting the number of cycles they offer down to one. The demand for IVF in the UK may increase with the Government's likely decision not to limit access to treatment for single mothers and lesbians.

It has been suggested that trusts are also failing to adhere to the conditions laid down by NICE. The age consideration of women is being ignored and many trusts do not offer IVF treatment to couples who already have a child. Clare Brown, chair of the National Infertility Awareness Campaign, said that 'It is absolutely appalling that the PCTs are still not implementing the NICE guidance'. The Department of Health has defended the PCTs, saying they need to consider a 'range of factors' to 'reflect local health needs and priorities' in their decisions to offer IVF treatment.

In a similar survey carried out on 64 fertility clinics in England and Wales by the British Fertility Society (BFS) in August 2005, it was reported that one in ten clinics were not providing IVF treatment on the NHS because the PCTs were not providing appropriate funding. The BFS wrote to all PCTs urging them to meet fertility targets set by NICE and called for equal access to treatment, condemning the apparent 'postcode lottery' whereby some couples were denied IVF treatment on the basis of where they lived.

Almost all NHS trusts fail on IVF pledge
The Independent |  9 October 2006
21 March 2011 - by Ayesha Ahmad 
A recent survey has found that two thirds of women would consider moving to another area of the UK to access IVF on the NHS....
30 June 2008 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
Only nine out of 151 primary care trusts (PCTs) in England are funding the recommended three cycles of IVF for infertile couples, according to the UK Department of Health. The latest figures reveal that despite guidance issued over four years ago, four trusts are still offering...
23 June 2008 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
A British MP has raised more concerns about access to National Heath Service-funded IVF in the UK. It transpires that a number of IVF clinics in the UK are denying free treatment to women who smoke. Labour MP Sally Keeble identified the latest barrier to accessing...
6 May 2008 - by MacKenna Roberts 
Last week, nurses in the UK decided to take action and lobby the British government to demand uniform eligibility criteria for infertility treatment and for the provision of up to three cycles of NHS-funded IVF be implemented by all UK fertility clinics, replacing the arbitrary 'postcode lottery...
31 July 2007 - by Katy Sinclair 
A report published by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infertility has highlighted the need for greater funding for infertility treatment on the National Health Service (NHS). The UK National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC) has welcomed the report, as part of its continued campaign to end the current...
31 August 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
The British Fertility Society (BFS) has issued an independent report stating that access to fertility treatment in the UK is still unequal and governed by a 'postcode lottery'. The BFS conducted a survey of 64 fertility clinics in England and Wales, receiving responses from 37, which...
17 July 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
UK Health Minister Caroline Flint has told an evidence session of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (STC) that there is 'probably not a case' for maintaining the part of the law that says that clinics must take into account the potential child's 'need...
20 June 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
BioNews reporting from ESHRE conference, Prague (sponsored by Planer cryoTechnology). By Dr Kirsty Horsey: Europe's increasing demographic crisis could be helped by providing free fertility treatment to more women, says RAND Europe, an independent research organisation, at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE...
20 June 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
BioNews reporting from ESHRE conference, Prague (sponsored by Planer cryoTechnology). By Dr Kirsty Horsey: Research presented today at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Prague, Czech Republic, suggests that the benefits that would come from the UK's government providing free fertility treatment...
21 April 2006 - by Clare Lewis-Jones MBE 
It is now five years since the UK Government asked the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to produce guidelines for the treatment of infertility. It is now four years since the Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Mr Tony Blair MP, said in his message of support to...
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