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Scotland's IVF 'postcode lottery' challenged

29 October 2009
Appeared in BioNews 532
The Labour party is urging the Scottish parliament to take action to standardise IVF provision across Scotland, after Labour MSP Jackie Baillie discovered wide disparities in provision between the 11 Scottish NHS boards. Ms Baillie contacted all of the boards after having been approached by a constituent who was upset about the length of IVF waiting lists where they lived.

The inquiry revealed that average waiting lists varied between 400 in Lothian (a three year wait after referral) and zero in the Scottish Borders (with patients receiving treatment within six months). Fife had 180 (a 26 month queue) and Glasgow and Clyde a 22 month delay. The worst figure - quoted by NHS Lothian - was however explained in a statement by its director of strategic planning and modernisation as resulting from the board offering three cycles of IVF, in line with guidelines established by the Scottish Government's Expert Advisory Group of Infertility Services in Scotland (a policy not yet implemented by most other boards).

The Minister for Public Health in Scotland, Shona Robinson, has stressed that the government is attempting to 'make access as fair as possible' but Ms Baillie pointed out that 'patients coming from another health board area to a specialist centre can be treated quicker than my constituent who lives in the health board area with the specialist centre. Surely this cannot be fair?'. Similarly Ms Baillie points out that there is a policy disparity with NHS Borders being willing to fund patients to receive treatment in another board area if the waiting list there is shorter, while other areas do not fund patients to seek treatment outside of their own facilities. Ms Robison also noted that while 'some boards have still got progress to make' she still believed that 'a lot of progress has been made'.

Looking to the future Ms Robinson outlined future initiatives aimed at reducing discrepancies in treatment based on location: 'We are funding Infertility Network Scotland - an organisation of past and present patients - to work with boards to ensure fairer access. Together they will consider the best ways to address waiting times and local differences in access to treatment. We're also setting up the Expert Group on Infertility to make recommendations on issues including waiting times. Within six months I expect them to submit an interim report to me and I expect to see quick progress on the ground too'.
Action call on IVF waiting times
BBC News Online |  19 October 2009
Couples wait six months to three years for IVF in 'postcode lottery'
The Scotsman |  21 October 2009
IVF treatment in Scotland found to be a 'postcode lottery'
BabyChums |  25 October 2009
Scots face 'postcode lottery' for IVF treatment
The Times |  21 October 2009
1 October 2012 - by Jessica Ware 
NHS Fife will no longer provide fertility treatment to couples if either of them smokes, or if the woman is overweight. In the same week, the Scottish Government has pledged to invest £12 million over the next three years to reduce waiting times for infertility treatment across Scotland...
11 July 2011 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
A controversial lottery, offering 25,000 worth of IVF treatment as a prize, has been given the go ahead. The Gambling Commission has licensed To Hatch, a UK charity offering fertility advice, to sell tickets to win the fertility treatment in a monthly draw....
18 April 2011 - by Kyrillos Georgiadis 
The Scottish Conservatives have revealed that one of their main priorities is improving access to fertility treatment on Scotland's NHS. The party plans to set up a five million fund to help patients seeking treatment should they be elected into power...
21 March 2011 - by Ayesha Ahmad 
A recent survey has found that two thirds of women would consider moving to another area of the UK to access IVF on the NHS....
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....
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.'...
10 August 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
More than eight out of 10 PCTs are still failing to offer the full three cycles of IVFtreatment 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....
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 
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...
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...
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...
21 April 2006 - by Clare Lewis-Jones MBE 
It is now five years since the UK Government asked the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to produce guidelines for the treatment of infertility. It is now four years since the Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Mr Tony Blair MP, said in his message of support to...
16 January 2006 - by Professor William L Ledger 
Many years ago the then Minister of Health, Frank Dobson, drew attention to the unfairness of the 'postcode lottery' of provision of infertility treatments in the UK. Following his initiative, a subsequent Minister, Alan Milburn, later commissioned the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to look into this...
10 July 2000 - by Dr Francoise Shenfield 
There has been much talk lately of the poor availability of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment. But how much IVF do we need? According to a report published in the UK in 1994, a population of 100,000 people needs 40 cycles of IVF. Assuming this proportion to be correct, it...
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