IVF Post Code Lottery

After recently watching the news I was shocked to hear the enormous discrepancies across the UK in the provision of NHS funded IVF treatment. This post code lottery has been a problem now for a number of years and sadly only seems to be getting worse. 


Restricted access

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published fertility guidelines that make recommendations that the NHS should provide three full cycles of IVF treatment for women aged under forty who have failed to get pregnant after two years of trying.

Unfortunately this guidance is not binding and local NHS providers can chose how many cycles to offer on the NHS, if indeed any at all. They can also impose their own criteria as to eligibility which further restricts access to treatment.

Inconsistencies between areas

The contrast depending on where you live is stark. In Scotland you can get the full three cycles of IVF on the NHS. In Wales you can get two cycles. In England it is even more of a post code lottery. Very few offer the full three cycles. Some areas offer two cycles, others 1 cycle and a large number are refusing to fund IVF at all on the NHS.

There is a street in London where if you live at one end you may be eligible for one cycle of NHS-funded IVF but if you live towards the other end of the street you will not get any cycles funded. Surely it cannot be fair that some neighbours are getting better access to NHS care than others.

Appalling treatment of families

The NICE guidance of three cycles is there for a reason. Studies suggest that this is generally how many cycles on average you will need to conceive.

Whilst the private cost of IVF seems to vary significantly, for those woman and families who live in the “wrong” area to get NHS funded IVF they are looking at costs up to £5,000 or more for just one cycle of IVF.

The erosion of NHS funded IVF means that only those who have the means to pay privately will be able to access the treatment. The thought of whether a family who suffers with infertility can have a child or not is dependent on income is appalling to me.

Unacceptable to disregard the NICE guidelines

Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive of NICE, said: “Infertility is a recognised medical condition. People affected, who include one in seven heterosexual couples, should be able to receive treatment as a core NHS service.

“Infertility can have a potentially devastating effect on people’s lives: it can cause significant distress, depression and possibly lead to the breakdown of relationships. It is unacceptable that parts of England are choosing to ignore NICE recommendations for treating infertility. This perpetuates a postcode lottery and creates inequalities in healthcare across the country.”