Despite strict NICE recommendations on IVF and fertility treatments, many women will face a post code lottery when it comes to getting the right treatment.
Government health advisors have recently told the NHS to stop denying infertility treatment to childless couples, stating that the denial betrays the NHS’ guiding principle.
The NHS in England and Wales is required to offer 3 IVF cycles to infertile women if they are under the age of 40, but this policy is often ignored by NHS trusts throughout the country. An audit of policies by the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (Niac) found that 49% only offered 1 IVF cycle and 24% offered 2 cycles. Less than a quarter offered the full 3 cycles and some did not pay for IVF treatment at all.
Susan Seenan, Chief Executive of the patient charity Infertility Network UK has stated, “Let’s not forget that infertility is a medical condition and that people with a fertility problem have the same right to be treated by the NHS as anyone else. It is now 10 years since the guideline was first published yet sadly we are still facing an arbitrary approach to IVF funding around the country.”
NICE’s guidelines require that:
- Couples are referred to a fertility specialist after a full year of unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant
- Couples should be referred sooner if they know of a clinical cause behind the infertility
- Women under 40 should be offered 3 full IVF cycles
- Women between 40 and 42 should be offered 1 IVF cycle
NICE’s standards also state that men and women undergoing chemotherapy should be given the option of having their eggs or sperm frozen so that they can become parents after their treatment was completed.