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Scotland: 'Fairer and faster' IVF access limited to non-obese, non-smoking teetotalers

20 May 2013
Appeared in BioNews 705

The Scottish government has approved criteria which include new restrictions on access to state-funded IVF but which also aim to end the 'postcode lottery' faced by many couples with fertility problems.

The new criteria will be applied from 1 July 2013. Women under 40 will be offered two courses of IVF treatment funded by NHS Scotland. Those between 40 and 42 years old will qualify for one free cycle after a test to determine their 'ovarian reserve' - a measure of how many eggs they have left.

Michael Matheson, the public health minister, said: 'Currently, the service and criteria offered to women vary across the country. This is not acceptable. For the first time, NHS provision of IVF will not vary, regardless of where you live. All patients in Scotland will have access to a more generous and fairer service than elsewhere in the UK'.

But to qualify for the free IVF treatment women must have a body mass index between 18.5 and 30. Other requirements include patients being in long-term relationships, ideally co-habiting with their partner for two years before seeking treatment.

Both partners must not smoke for a minimum of three months before IVF treatment and continue as non-smokers during treatment. Alcohol is also off-limits to both during treatment.

People who need to make such lifestyle changes will be 'supported' in doing so and placed on a waiting list until they meet the criteria.

Ian Crichton, the National Infertility Group chairman, defended the restrictions: 'Using the latest clinical evidence available, we have done our best to balance the needs of couples and the resources available in recommending treatment that is both safe and effective'.

Overall, the Scottish government is investing £12 million to reducing IVF waiting times and increasing accessibility. The government hopes to guarantee a maximum treatment time of a year by March 2015.

Jackson Carlaw, a Scottish Conservative health spokesman commented: 'I welcome the proposals to monitor the lifestyles of people seeking fertility treatment, which can have a considerable impact on the success of IVF. It is only right that patients do what they can to improve the chances of cycles being effective'.

Health boards scrap postcode lottery for couples wanting IVF
Scottish Express |  16 May 2013
NHS IVF services to be fairer and faster
Scottish Government (press release) |  15 May 2013
Obese women miss out under IVF shake-up
BBC News |  15 May 2013
Scots IVF ban for obese, smokers and drinkers
Scotsman |  16 May 2013
Scottish women over 40 to get IVF on the NHS
Daily Telegraph |  16 May 2013
26 May 2015 - by Ruth Retassie 
A parliamentary committee has asked the Scottish Government to consider funding three cycles of IVF on the NHS, in an increase from the two cycles currently funded on the NHS in Scotland...
30 March 2015 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A charity has called for all NHS Boards in Scotland to move towards offering eligible patients three full cycles of IVF...
6 October 2014 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
Drinking more than two pints a week could have negative effects on men's semen quality, a study has found...
5 November 2012 - by Cait McDonagh 
The Academic Research Partnership (ARP) has bought a majority stake in the Glasgow Centre for Reproductive Medicine (GCRM), reportedly creating the UK's largest provider of NHS and private IVF services...
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...
26 March 2012 - by Ayesha Ahmad 
Couples in Northern Ireland claim they are being discriminated against as they are only offered one cycle of IVF treatment on the NHS. This is in comparison to the two or three available in the rest of the UK...
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...
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