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NHS ordered to fund £6000 private IVF for couple kept waiting

24 June 2013
Appeared in BioNews 710

The board of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Scotland, has been told to pay for a couple's private fertility treatment and alter their policies after making a 'number of failures' when providing IVF.

The couple, known only as Mr and Mrs C, were subjected to 'significant delays' that might have impacted upon the success of their treatment, according to an investigation by Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Jim Martin.

After their initial referral, the couple waited nine months to see a fertility doctor, followed by a further 20 months before sperm was retrieved from Mr C. During this time Mrs C's ovarian reserve - the number and quality of remaining eggs, inferred by hormone levels - dropped below the threshold recommended for IVF on the NHS.

After egg fertilisation and embryo transfer failed to result in pregnancy, the couple were told that they would not be offered a second cycle of IVF using Mrs C's eggs due to her low ovarian reserve. A second cycle using donor eggs was suggested, but Mr C felt that this was 'contrary to his right of access to NHS treatment and against guidelines on the provision of fertility treatment in Scotland'. Mr Martin ruled that while this decision was 'clinically sound', the delays throughout the process may have contributed to the lack of its success.

Martin concludes: 'This was an injustice in that Mr and Mrs C were precluded from another potential cycle of fertility treatment using Mrs C's eggs'. To provide redress, the NHS board has been instructed to offer the couple an apology and £6,000 with which to seek private treatment, using Mrs C's eggs.

They were also told to inform couples undertaking IVF that the possibility of future rounds of treatment is dependent on clinical measures such as hormone levels, and to consider fast-tracking patients with lower ovarian reserves.

In a statement reported by the Evening Times, an NHS spokesperson said: 'We have already apologised but will be writing to them again offering our apologies for any failures. We will also respond to the Ombudsman's recommendations regarding the wider service. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's fertility service strives to provide equitable treatment to all patients seeking treatment'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
£6000 award for couple hit by IVF delays
Evening Times |  20 June 2013
Case 201200390: Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Board - Acute Services Division (pdf)
Scottish Public Services Ombudsman |  19 June 2013
NHS ordered to fund IVF for couple after bungles
Scotsman |  20 June 2013
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