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MP's report shows IVF postcode lottery continues

10 August 2009
Appeared in BioNews 520

More than eight out of 10 PCTs are still failing to offer the full three cycles of IVF treatment as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), according to a report published by Tory MP Grant Shapps this week. The report revealed further inconsistencies in the criteria PCTs were using to decide who should get NHS-funded IVF, resulting in some mothers being both too old and too young to access treatment, depending on where they lived.

Mr Shapps, who used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information from PCTs across the UK, said that PCTs should do more to manage the expectations of would-be parents by being more realistic about what they can offer: ‘IVF remains a postcode lottery in this country. Budgets are tight and the NHS must set its priorities, but it is wrong to raise expectations in couples who are desperate to start a family only for them to find out later that they won't get the real help they expected.'

NICE guidelines issued in 2004 recommend providing couples in which the woman is aged between 23 and 39, three full cycles of IVF, as well as the replacement of frozen embryos, should a couple fail to conceive with fresh ones. Infertility affects up to one in seven couples in the UK. The limited NHS provision of IVF means that of the 40,000 IVF cycles carried out in the UK each year, around three-quarters of these are done privately, costing at least £2,000 per cycle.

The report has prompted the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) to mount pressure on PCTs to comply to guidelines ‘as soon as possible', however, many trusts blame financial constraints for failure to comply.

The Department of Health defended the NHS, claiming that government surveys were not consistent with Shapps' results and showed that trust were ‘making good progress in implementing Nice guidelines.' He added: ‘The option to become a parent is something most of us expect to have. People who cannot conceive naturally should have access to NHS treatment, just as they would for any other clinical need.'

Can you get IVF where you live? Find out here
The Guardian |  6 August 2009
IVF treatment is a lottery: Tories
Press Association |  7 August 2009
MP’s report reveals postcode lottery for IVF treatment
Nursing Times |  6 August 2009
Postcode lottery in NHS fertility treatment exposed
The Daily Telegraph |  6 August 2009
‘Postcode lottery’ remains for couples seeking help on IVF
The Independent |  6 August 2009
‘We were on the verge of moving'
BBC News Online |  6 August 2009
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A couple who was refused fertility treatment on the NHS for being 'too old' has said it intends to challenge the decision in the courts, arguing that the decision amounts to age discrimination....
15 October 2012 - by Daniel Malynn 
'Win a Baby' follows the trials and tribulations of Camille Strachan, a former City worker and model, who plans to launch the UK's first IVF lottery. Unlike many documentaries where the maker's own thoughts are thrust in front of anyone else's, the commentary is fairly neutral, allowing viewers space to form their own opinions...
8 March 2010 - by Maren Urner 
The UK supermarket chain Asda is to become the first to sell IVF drugs without profit, saving patients up to £820 per treatment cycle. The move is part of the retailer's bid to become the most competitive pharmacy in the UK....
21 December 2009 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
The NHS must improve access to IVF, according to a new policy briefing from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN)...
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.'...
9 August 2009 - by Grant Shapps MP 
For anyone who has found it easy to conceive naturally, it's possibly hard to imagine how IVF can become all-encompassing in someone's life. The endless check-ups, scans, tests, periods of waiting and - finally - the day when you learn the result. It's a physically punishing process for the women and an emotionally exhausting process for both partners...
1 June 2009 - by Sally Cheshire CBE 
Around one in six couples in the UK seek specialist treatment for fertility problems, and infertility can have a profoundly distressing and devastating impact. British patients have traditionally faced considerable inequality of access to NHS treatment, resulting in many having to resort to privately-funded treatment, and there continue to be...
14 July 2008 - by Clare Lewis-Jones MBE 
Louise Brown, the world's first IVF baby, will be 30 years old on 25 July 2008. Here Clare Brown, who was among those to speak at a reception organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infertility to mark next week's National Infertility Day 2008, reflects on three decades of...
2 July 2007 - by Dr Francoise Shenfield 
Lord Winston's critique of the funding of fertility treatment in the UK sparked controversy and press headlines earlier this month. As I wrote in a recent letter to the Guardian newspaper (1), whilst I welcome Professor Winston's comments on the cost of IVF in the UK, he fails to address...
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