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A fifth of PCTs offer single women IVF on the NHS

31 October 2011
Appeared in BioNews 631

An investigation by the Daily Telegraph has found that a fifth of PCTs are offering single women IVF on the NHS.

The information has further fuelled the 'post-code lottery' debate surrounding IVF provision, as it comes at the same time as news that couples in other parts of England miss out.

In 2008 an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, changed the original reference of 'the need for a father' to 'the need for supportive parenting', when considering fertility treatment. Critics of this change have called on Prime Minister David Cameron to tackle these geographical inconsistencies and begin to put families first.

'It's clearly wrong that while couples in stable relationships can't get IVF and in other areas, single women can', said Labour MP Frank Field.

There are 151 PCTs in England and, of the 135 who responded to the Daily Telegraph's enquiries, 24 said they offered IVF to single women.

However a spokesperson for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) believes the figures do not tell the full picture, explaining that the majority of single women are believed to privately fund their fertility treatment, taking some pressure off the NHS.

'I know this is a sensitive issue, but I truly believe single women have just as much of a right to a child as couples do', said Elizabeth Pearce, who became the first single parent to have a baby from NHS-funded IVF in July of this year.

'There are more single women wanting to have treatment with donor sperm', explained head of policy at the HFEA, Juliet Tizzard, at a public meeting last week.

The new research follows a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) published earlier in 2011, which found large variations between IVF opportunities offered by health authorities. It stated that 73 percent of PCTs were failing to offer three cycles of IVF, as specified by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), and that five trusts offered no IVF at all. Of these five, NHS West Sussex has started funding IVF again.

Anastasia de Waal, director of family and education at the think-tank Civitas, noted: 'The important thing is that the funding is done in an equitable way. It does seem like it is very confused and potentially unfair'.

Couples 'are losing out in IVF lottery': Single women are being given treatment above them
Daily Mail |  25 October 2011
NHS funding IVF for single women as couples are denied
Evening Standard |  24 October 2011
Single women being offered IVF on the NHS
Telegraph |  24 October 2011
Single women offered IVF for free
Marie Claire |  24 October 2011
'Wrong' to offer single women state-funded IVF
Nursing in Practice |  24 October 2011
16 July 2012 - by Jessica Ware 
Couples undergoing fertility treatment in Gloucestershire will soon have access to three NHS-funded cycles of IVF treatment instead of just one. Eligibility criteria will also be widened, it was announced this month...
28 May 2012 - by Mark Johnson 
From next year, local GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups will take on the commissioning responsibilities of Primary Care Trusts, with the latter due to be abolished in April 2013. This now includes responsibility for commissioning fertility services such as IVF treatment...
20 February 2012 - by Clare Lewis-Jones MBE 
I was shocked when I heard the news that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has built up the princely sum of approximately £3.4 million in its bank account. The HFEA explains that this surplus has arisen over recent years due to prudent budgeting...
15 August 2011 - by Susan Seenan 
Thirty years after the birth of the first IVF baby, you would expect the country that pioneered the technique to lead the world in providing access to fertility treatment. At the very least, the UK would guarantee fair and equitable access for eligible patients. But you would be wrong. Patients across the country are still fighting to get the treatment they deserve...
13 June 2011 - by Gareth Johnson MP 
IVF is one of Britain's greatest inventions. Professor Robert Edwards received the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his pioneering work developing this fertility treatment and - in the last week - it has been announced that he will be knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours list. The result of Professor Edward's work was Louise Brown, the world's first so-called 'test tube' baby. Britain, more than any other country, should be championing the use of IVF treatment...
28 February 2011 - by Leo Perfect 
Harrow Primary Care Trust (PCT) has reversed its decision to suspend IVF treatment and has adopted a unified policy across neighbouring PCTs in North West London to offer one full cycle of IVF to eligible patients....
7 February 2011 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
A couple from Dorset expecting to receive two cycles of IVF on the NHS has spoke out against the trust after being told they could have access to only one....
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