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IVF on the NHS? Not Unless You’re Old Enough!

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One in seven UK couples experience significant difficulty in conceiving, and IVF treatment is often their only chance of having children.  However, despite specific NHS guidelines to the contrary, over 70% of trusts are withholding treatment as a cost-cutting exercise.

The guidelines, developed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), state that couples should be given up to three cycles if the woman is aged 23-39.

In March, Freedom of Information requests were sent out to PCT’s by The All Party Parliamentary Group.  Out of the 177 trusts, 171 replied.  Most of the trusts were ignoring the three cycle rule and only offering one or two, and five trusts didn’t offer IVF at all.  In Wales couples were only considered if the woman was older than 38 years 6 months.

Whilst there are also criteria in the NICE guidelines regarding weight, age and smoking, it appears that many trusts are taking this out of context and applying the recommendation far too harshly as a way of refusing IVF.

Gareth Thomson, MP for Dartford and Chairman of The All Party Parliamentary Group says that “It’s clear that many PCTs are not giving IVF the priority they should. There are instances where it is being lumped in with tattoo removals.”

IVF success rates are higher in women below 35 – at around 30%.  Those aged 36-38 have a 15% chance and for those aged 39 and above it drops to 5-10%.  Based on these figures the cost to a trust in providing IVF is around £13,000 for a woman under 35, whilst this rises dramatically to £40,000 for a woman aged 39.

These figures show that trusts restricting treatments until a woman is older is not such a cost saving method after all.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron said that the Deputy Chief Executive of the NHS, David Flory, would be writing to all the PCT’s to remind them of the NICE guidelines.

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