A BBC investigation has found that women receiving IVF on the NHS in the UK may have a lower chance of conceiving than private patients because treatment is not always provided at the most appropriate time.
There is an optimal time to perform the sensitive procedures of egg collection and embryo transfer, however more than half of the NHS clinics surveyed by the BBC performed these procedures four days a week or less. By comparison, top private clinics perform egg collection and embryo transfer five days a week, and tailor treatment to individual patients to ensure the highest chance of success. Laurence Shaw, deputy medical director at the private Bridge Centre clinic in London, told the BBC that performing these procedures at the optimal time can make a 'significant' difference to a woman's chances of a successful pregnancy.
A 38 year old patient from London, Kavita, who has tried to conceive using both private and NHS treatment, told the BBC that her private treatment was always more likely to result in pregnancy. 'They [private clinics] are waiting to see the optimum moment for when it's best to collect the eggs and monitoring the condition', she said. She added: 'I just remember with the NHS, it was very geared around when they could fit me in rather that when it was appropriate'.
According to statistics collected by the UK regulator the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), there is a wide variation in IVF success rates, with top-performing clinics achieving 50 per cent and worst-performing clinics achieving as little as 10 per cent.
Clare Brown, Chief Executive of Infertility Network UK, told the BBC that more research was needed into what can improve clinic success rates and the of impact week-long egg collection and embryo transfer procedures. 'For the sake of patients and to give them the best possible chance, we need to look into this very carefully', she said.