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Infertile couples in the east of England to receive more IVF cycles

5 May 2009
Appeared in BioNews 506

The UK's NHS announced last week that more state-funded IVF treatments are now available to couples in the east of England than anywhere else in the country. As of 1 May, the region will be the first in the UK to fund up to six attempts at pregnancy with fertility treatment.

Although 70 per cent of the population in the UK will conceive naturally within 18 months of attempting pregnancy, and 90 per cent after two years, about one in six couples have fertility problems. Until now, infertile couples could get up to three IVF cycles free on the NHS, dependent on their local PCT. There are, however, wide variations in healthcare trusts across the country, with some offering only one full cycle.

In the five years since the NHS put these guidelines in place, based on recommendations from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), a 'postcode lottery' has continued to exist in relation to infertility treatments due to not all PCTs offering the recommended amount of cycles.

Experts have previously stated that limiting the number of IVF cycles can encourage the implantation of more than one embryo, which increases the risk of multiple births thereby putting mother and child in danger.
The new system allows eligible couples up to six attempts at pregnancy, including a maximum of three full cycles of IVF treatment and a further three frozen embryo transfers.

Certain eligibility criteria must be met before couples can be included in this scheme, including that the women must be between 23 and 39 with no children from the current relationship. Women must also be registered with a GP from one of the six counties in the east of England: Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

The news has been welcomed by Mike Macnamee, chief executive of Bourne Hall Clinic near Cambridge, which was established as the world's first IVF clinic. He is 'delighted that the east of England is taking a lead in making IVF more widely accessible and creating a clearer and more consistent treatment pathway across the PCTs'.

Clare Lewis-Jones, chief executive of Infertility Network UK and chair of the National Infertility Awareness Campaign said of the announcement that 'this is great news for patients across the 14 PCTs in the East of England area'. However, she urged the PCTs that still do not provide the full three cycles to 'follow the example of the East of England and put an end once and for all to the postcode lottery which denies patients the treatment they deserve'.

Increased provision of fertility treatment for couples in East of England
Infertility Network UK Press Release |  29 April 2009
Infertile couples to be guaranteed three IVF cycles in East of England
The Daily Telegraph |  28 April 2009
Pledge on free NHS IVF treatment
BBC News Online |  29 April 2009
24 June 2013 - by Dr Amina Aitsi-Selmi 
Norfolk's first IVF clinic has officially opened, offering local couples the opportunity to receive treatment outside London and Cambridge for the first time...
23 November 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
The Lister Fertility Clinic in London is offering free fertility treatment to 21 couples to mark its 21st birthday and the opening of their newly expanded clinic. Mr Sam Abdalla, Medical Director of the clinic, said that the gesture was part of the clinic's 'duty to make treatment more accessible' and an ongoing commitment to offer a number of free cycles each year as part of the clinic's 'community programme.'...
26 May 2009 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Two separate online petitions are calling for a change to the way IVF services are provided under the UK's National Health Service (NHS). Janine Macallister, 27, of Newport, Shropshire and Richard Mackenzie, 29, from Whitney, Oxfordshire have each started a petition calling for their local Primary Care...
12 January 2009 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Only one in five primary care trusts (PCTs) in England is providing the recommended number of NHS-funded IVF cycles, it was revealed at a fertility conference in Edinburgh last week. The results of a survey conducted by a team at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London show that...
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...
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