A 20-year old woman has been refused NHS-funded IVF (in vitro fertilisation) treatment in the UK because her boyfriend has children from a previous relationship. Catherine Storey is unable to conceive naturally after going through premature menopause when she was just 18 years old. The couple decided to fund the first cycle themselves and had to travel to Barcelona for the procedure, because of waiting lists for private treatment in their home city of Newcastle. After the first cycle failed the couple found themselves unable to fund further treatments and attempted to access IVF on the NHS, but they were told that they were ineligible for treatment.
'It's absolutely shocking. I work hard and pay my taxes and then when I needed the NHS they have turned me down. If I had fallen in love with a different man or lived in a different part of the country I would have been able to have IVF for free', said Ms Storey.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) published guidelines in 2004 for the provision of IVF on the NHS, recommending that all Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) should provide three NHS-funded cycles of IVF treatment for suitable couples. However, many PCTs also recommend that couples with a child or children from a current or previous relationship should not be offered treatment. Yet Ms Storey's boyfriend's existing children do not live with the couple but 300 miles away. There is a lack of uniformity in the provision of IVF treatment in the NHS across the country with not all PCTs meeting the NICE recommendations, and it is possible that Ms Storey would have been offered treatment by another Trust, although the NICE guidelines did recommend that patients be 23 years or older in order to qualify for NHS-funded cycles.
A spokeswoman for Newcastle PCT said: 'We understand it is distressing for patients to find out they are not eligible for specific treatments, in this case in vitro fertilisation is not available to them. The local NHS policy says to have access to IVF treatment, couples must have no other living children in this or any previous relationship for either partner, have had a minimum of three years unexplained infertility and no history of failed sterilisation reversal in either male or female partner'.
'When I found out I couldn't have children I was totally devastated. I still don't think I have come to terms with it', said Ms Storey. 'Infertility affects every aspect of your life and I think about it all the time. When I went through the menopause my hormones were all over the place and I was on anti-depressants. It was like my teenage years had been taken away from me and I was old before my time'.