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MP's report on fertility treatment provision highlights significant failings

13 June 2011
Appeared in BioNews 611

A recent report by UK politicians has found widespread inconsistencies in the provision of fertility treatment by the NHS.

The report, published by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on infertility, used freedom of information requests to gather data from 177 PCTs or the equivalent in the area. At the time the data was gathered, around a quarter of the 171 respondents offered the full three cycles of IVF recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), with five PCTs providing no fertility treatment whatsoever.

NICE recommends that couples in which the woman is between 23 and 39 years of age at the time of treatment should be eligible for IVF but some PCTs set the cut-off at 35, the report says.

The report also says many PCTs' restrictions extend to social criteria such as body weight and smoking status. Gareth Johnson, MP for Dartford and Chair of the APPG, said: 'In order for IVF treatment under the NHS to be truly available for infertile couples PCTs need to uphold not only the letter of the NICE guidelines but also the spirit'. He expressed his dismay that many PCTs are using arbitrary restrictions to withhold IVF as part of cost-saving measures.

The World Health Organisation and the Department of Health (DH) recognise infertility as a physical condition. But this opinion is not shared by NHS North Staffordshire, which does not fund fertility treatment. It responded to the report saying: '[Infertility] does not affect general physical health or life expectancy and as such is not scored, by a clinically-led panel, as one of our health priorities'.

Susan Seenan, of the National Infertility Awareness Campaign, said it was 'unacceptable' that some PCTs are failing to fund IVF. 'The [NICE] guidance was based on clinical, as well as cost, effectiveness', she said.

The DH has published guidance to help PCT commissioners implement NICE's recommendations and has urged compliance.


APPG on Infertility: 73% of PCTs are failing to provide recommended IVF treatments
Gareth Johnson MP |  7 June 2011
More than 70 per cent of NHS trusts break rules to deny IVF – and save money
Independent |  7 June 2011
MPs condemn NHS regional variation in IVF provision
BBC News health |  7 June 2011
NHS fertility clinics told to lift restrictions on IVF treatment
Independent |  5 June 2011
No IVF on the NHS if your husband smokes
Telegraph |  4 June 2011
North Staffordshire IVF decision 'not taken lightly'
BBC News Stoke and Staffordshire |  7 June 2011
25 February 2013 - by Mark Johnson 
On 20 February 2013, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence published its new guideline on the assessment and treatment of couples with fertility problems...
2 July 2012 - by Louisa Ghevaert 
The inconsistent and inadequate provision of IVF treatment on the NHS is an unacceptable way to treat the one in seven UK couples (3.5 million people) currently affected by infertility...
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...
28 March 2011 - by Kyrillos Georgiadis 
Bury NHS trust in Greater Manchester has reinstated fertility treatment after suspending the service in September 2010 due to financial constraints....
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....
14 March 2011 - by Sujatha Jayakody 
West Cheshire will decide this month whether to become the latest region to suspend NHS-funded IVF treatment. The West Cheshire Health Consortium, which is made up of 38 GP practices, claims it needs to cut IVF to deliver healthcare to its aging population...
13 December 2010 - by Clare Lewis-Jones MBE 
The National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC) [1] has been outraged by recent announcements from at least ten Primary Care Trusts in England to suspend or severely restrict funding for infertility services. Infertility services meet a health need so why are they being slashed in this way?...
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