Page URL:

UK survey reveals that three-quarters of infertile patients would consider treatment abroad

21 July 2008
Appeared in BioNews 467

An overwhelming majority of infertility patients in the UK said they would contemplate travelling abroad for fertility treatment, according to the first comprehensive study on the strength and motivations behind the fertility tourism industry. Among the 339 infertile patients who responded to an online poll conducted by Infertility Network UK, 76 per cent stated they would be willing to seek fertility treatment outside the UK with 70 per cent citing their reasons would be to avoid higher costs and long wait-lists at UK clinics. Infertility Network UK performed the survey for this year's National Infertility Day on Saturday, 19 July 2008, when it announced its findings at a conference in central London.

Other popular reasons provided by the patients for why they might prefer to receive fertility treatment abroad were high success rates (61 per cent) and the greater availability of donor eggs and sperm (54 per cent). The UK has suffered a decline in the number of egg and sperm donors since removing donor anonymity by law in 2005. The 24 per cent opposed to treatment in overseas clinics were commonly concerned about lower standards, lack of regulation and language-barrier difficulties.

Clare Brown, Chief Executive of Infertility Network UK, blames the current 'appalling' difficulties - such as 'postcode lottery' arbitrary provision - that infertile couples face in Britain in order to access fertility assistance: 'If the NHS funded three full cycles of treatment as recommended by National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), many couples would not be forced to consider going abroad for treatment', she said. She warned that regulations can be totally different for foreign fertility clinics and it is 'absolutely vital' for individuals to do 'thorough research beforehand'.

Yet the study revealed an 88 per cent level of satisfaction from those who received treatment abroad, reportedly not only due to lower costs, shorter waiting-lists and successful pregnancy rates but also due to general staff attitude, atmosphere and state of the facilities. Clare Brown added that she hopes 'that clinics in the UK take into account the findings of this survey and learn from the good experiences many couples have had at clinics abroad'.

Among those who were dissatisfied, 47 per cent experienced problems due to language and communication difficulties and 37 per cent due to unregulated practice. Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated, 'The Government is working directly with Infertility Network UK, as well as experts in the NHS to ensure the needs of people with fertility problems are recognised and addressed'.

This Friday, 25 July, marks the birthday of Louise Brown, who was the world's first IVF-conceived child born in England. Thirty years onward, roughly 3.5 million IVF-assisted babies have been born worldwide, averaging at least 200,000 annually. However, infertile individuals in the UK are among the least likely in the developed sperm world to receive IVF with one of the lowest annual IVF performance rates in Europe - under 700 per million Britons. In 2005 just 1.6 per cent of total births were assisted pregnancies compared with rates of 3-3.5 per cent in Scandinavia.

A special-focus Economist article attributed the low statistics to the lack of public funding available and the low-priority ascribed to infertility as a medical condition in the UK. Only nine out of the 152 local primary-care trusts provide the three recommended IVF cycles. In 2005, two-thirds of the IVF cycles performed in Britain were privately funded.

No IVF please, we're British
The Economist |  17 July 2008
Survey Finds Three-quarters Of Fertility Patients Would Consider Going Abroad For Treatment, UK
Medical News Today |  15 July 2008
The Prime Minister And The Health Minister Show Their Support For NHS Funding For Fertility Treatment, UK
Medical News Today |  16 July 2008
7 April 2014 - by Dr Ruth Curson 
Sadly, there are currently not enough egg and sperm donors in the UK to meet our needs. Recipients are now seeking alternative routes to find donors, either by travelling abroad or from unregulated internet sites: both with the potential for unwanted consequences...
15 March 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens 
A donated human egg will be raffled on Wednesday to mark the launch of a new IVF service which helps UK women to access egg donation services in America. The new service, offered by the Bridge Centre in London, will allow patients to select egg donors on the basis of characteristics such as racial background, health, education and appearance....
21 September 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
British couples travelling abroad to take advantage of commercial surrogate arrangements are engaging in a form of 'exploitation', Professor Naomi Pfeffer, an expert in the ethics and regulation of controversial developments in medicine, said at a fertility meeting this week....
1 September 2009 - by Dr Francoise Shenfield 
As a clinician based in the UK, one cannot fail to be aware that some patients seek fertility treatments abroad. Until now we only had newspaper headlines or anecdotal evidence, but having presented the results of the first European study in Amsterdam at the annual ESHRE conference (1), we may now base our reflections on some facts, even if selected by the voluntary nature of participating colleagues and centres abroad....
3 August 2009 - by Ben Jones 
Two Israeli doctors and one Romanian are being detained by a special Romanian investigative police unit after raids on a Romanian IVF clinic suspected to be involved in international human egg and stem-cell trafficking. The Romanian department for fighting organized crime (DIICOT) announced in a statement that 'the group was focusing on identifying foreign couples eager to resort to assisted reproduction techniques and on grabbing Romanian (women) aged 18-30 to donate ova for 800 to 1,000 lei...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.