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Third of UK women entitled to IVF turned away by GPs, survey suggests

3 September 2012
Appeared in BioNews 671

Around one in three women entitled to receive IVF are being denied this right, according to a survey carried out by the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC).

More than 400 women attending fertility clinics were surveyed, with 38 percent found to have been incorrectly denied treatment according to guidelines set out by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). This was attributed to a lack of knowledge on issues of infertility and treatment options from their local GPs.

Dr Clare Gerada, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, told the Guardian newspaper: 'I don't usually take very seriously surveys that show that GPs don't know what they are doing but I agree with this survey. I'm surprised and worried that GPs aren't sympathetic'.

One in six couples in the UK face infertility, currently defined by NICE as the inability to conceive a child naturally after trying for three years. The recent NIAC survey of women dealing with infertility found nearly half said that their GPs were not knowledgeable about their condition or of the treatment options available. Of those who were referred to a specialist for IVF treatment, 27 percent had to wait over a year for treatment and 12 percent  up to two years, further reducing their chances of conceiving.

'Infertility treatment has for too long been seen as a low priority, failing the one in six couples who live with the devastating impact this illness has on their lives', said Ms Clare Lewis-Jones, the chair of NIAC and CEO of the patient charity Infertility Network UK.

From 2013, local GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) will take on the commissioning responsibilities of services such as infertility treatment, a decision that has concerned NIAC. 'Our main concern stems from the level of preparation within each CCG as our survey results have led us to have some concerns about the readiness of these groups to take on this role', said Ms Lewis-Jones.

'The stress of IVF is unavoidable. What is avoidable, however, is the exacerbation of these effects through reductions to services and long waiting times'. Last year 73 percent of NHS primary care trusts failed to provide comprehensive IVF treatment to infertile couples in their area, according to a report from MPs.
A report into NHS IVF provision in the UK today (pdf)
All Party Parliamentary Group on Infertility |  7 June 2011
GPs unsympathetic to infertile women, study finds
Guardian |  27 August 2012
Study finds GPs unsympathetic to infertile couples
Infertility Network UK |  28 August 2012
Third of women with right to IVF rejected by GPs who don't know enough about fertility treatment
Mail Online |  27 August 2012
9 June 2014 - by Purvi Shah 
The Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group has agreed in principle to fund IVF treatment for couples in the area, although a formal decision on the matter will be made at a later date....
19 May 2014 - by Rebecca Carr 
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published a set of draft statements that aim to 'eliminate' current geographical disparities in access to fertility treatment...
3 February 2014 - by Mark Johnson 
In 2011, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infertility found that over 70 percent of NHS Primary Care Trusts were not providing the recommended three full cycles of IVF to eligible couples. Three years later, there has been a very real and very disappointing lack of progress...
22 April 2013 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The Progress Educational Trust's debate, 'NICE Try… But is anyone listening?', considered the impact of the radical structural changes to the NHS on the state provision of IVF. At least two central critical themes emerged from the debate: a critique of method and a critique of measure...
25 February 2013 - by Michelle Downes 
Women over the age of 40, same-sex couples, and people with disabilities have been addressed for the first time in the updated NICE guideline on fertility treatment...
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...
12 March 2012 - by Dr Rosie Morley 
Nine NHS primary care trusts (PCTs) have introduced restrictions to IVF treatment for patients who smoke or are overweight...
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...
28 February 2011 - by Ayesha Ahmad 
A survey by Pulse, a weekly magazine aimed at General Practitioners (GPs), has revealed that 31 percent of GPs report that their patients are facing restrictions in IVF treatment following the latest cost-saving measures...
17 January 2011 - by Chris Chatterton 
Over the last few months BioNews has covered the developing story that a number of PCTs across England have suspended their fertility services, citing financial constraints as a prominent factor....
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