Around one in ten CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) in England meet national guidelines on IVF provision, found the campaign group. This is half the number of CCGs meeting the guidelines in 2013.
Fertility Fairness compiled data from all 208 CCGs to which it sent Freedom of Information requests. Of these, only 12 percent are following the recommendation by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) to provide three full rounds of IVF to eligible women under 40, compared with 24 per cent of CCGs doing so in 2013, said the group.
'The key thing is there is a clear pattern of decommissioning of services,' said Sarah Norcross, co-chair of Fertility Fairness.
While the number of areas offering three cycles of NHS-funded IVF has fallen, the number of CCGs offering just one IVF cycle has risen to 61 percent from 49 percent in 2013. Seven CCGs, or 3.4 percent, have removed NHS-funded IVF altogether – more than three times the number in 2015.
NICE also recommends that eligible women aged 40-42 should be offered one cycle of IVF on the NHS. The audit found that only half of CCGs (51 percent) were doing this.
'The NHS should provide access to fertility services, including IVF, for all patients that meet the criteria,' a UK Department of Health spokesperson told the BBC, adding that CCGs have been advised to meet the NICE guidelines.
NHS England said: 'Ultimately these are legally decisions for CCGs, who are under an obligation to balance the various competing demands on the NHS locally while living within the budget Parliament has allocated.'
Fertility Fairness also revealed a league table of the best and worst areas to live for access to NHS-funded IVF. The top areas included four areas in Greater Manchester. The worst areas, which do not offer any NHS-funded IVF, were Herts Valleys, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Croydon, South Norfolk, Basildon & Brentwood, Mid- Essex and North East Essex.
'We'd like to see someone take responsibility for turning this around,' said Norcross, who is also director of Progress Educational Trust, which publishes BioNews. 'And it needs to be done as a matter of urgency because women's biological clocks don't stop ticking while policy is sorted out.'