Last updated at 10:35 AM on 7th June 2011
Warning: A report has found that many infertile couples have only one or two chances to conceive before they're forced to consider private treatment or adoption
Nearly three-quarters of NHS trusts are denying women IVF treatment, according to a damning report.
It warns that most Primary Care Trusts have imposed strict rules on who is allowed treatment, with some refusing to fund it altogether.
Women are routinely turned down if they are deemed too young, too old, too obese or even if their husband has a child from a previous marriage.
A report by MPs has found that 73 per cent of PCTs do not offer couples three courses of IVF as advised by medical watchdog the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
This means that many infertile couples have only one or two chances to conceive before they are forced to pay for treatment privately or consider other options, such as adoption.
And five trusts – Warrington, North Yorkshire and York, West Sussex, Stockport and North Staffordshire – do not offer IVF at all.
Many others impose strict age restrictions. Some will offer treatment only to women in their late 30s, when the chances of success are far lower, while others will provide it only for women in their early 30s, but those over the age of 35 will be turned down.
For example, women in Bury will be offered IVF only if they are between the ages of 39 and 40, and many health trusts in Wales provide the treatment only to those between 38.5 and 40.
But in Hampshire and Milton Keynes, women are only eligible for treatment between 30 and 34, and only those aged 30 to 35 will be offered IVF in Bournemouth and Buckinghamshire.
Leading fertility experts have accused health trusts of denying couples ‘the opportunity to start a family of their own’.
The report, by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infertility, used Freedom of Information requests submitted to all 152 PCTs to establish what restrictions were in place for IVF.
It found that many had strict rules on age, weight, smoking and whether either partner already had a child, regardless of whether they had contact with them.
But they had no rules on alcohol and caffeine consumption, even though excessive amounts are known to reduce the chances of conceiving.
Around one couple in seven suffers from fertility problems, and 1 per cent of babies born every year in Britain were conceived via IVF.
'Unacceptable': Tony Rutherford, chairman of the British Fertility Society, said the report showed the lack of fertility funding
Gareth Johnson, Conservative MP for Dartford and chairman of the APPG on Infertility, said: ‘IVF is the creation of life and gives hope to thousands of infertile couples across the UK.
‘IVF treatment was invented in Britain and so, more than any other country, we should be championing its use.
‘As chairman of the APPG on Infertility, I believe that all PCTs should be offering three cycles of treatment as recommended by the Nice guidelines.’
Tony Rutherford, chairman of the British Fertility Society, said the report showed the ‘unacceptable’ status of IVF funding in the UK.
He added: ‘The findings that the majority of PCTs do not provide eligible patients with three cycles of IVF treatment and often implement their own criteria for eligibility with no evidence base unfortunately come as no surprise and bear witness to lack of funding and prominence that infertility is given by our healthcare system.
‘The World Health Organisation recognises infertility as a physical illness that requires treatment. However, it can also cause significant emotional and psychological harm to patients.
‘By not being given fair access to fertility treatment on the NHS, patients are effectively being denied the opportunity to start a family of their own.’
Many PCTs have cut back on IVF funding in the last couple of years to try to save money.
They have also reduced other non-urgent treatments, such as hip and knee replacements.
The recommendations made by Nice are only guidelines, and there are no sanctions for PCTs if they do not comply.
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Some of these comments sicken me. IVF is not an elective surgery. ...‘The World Health Organisation recognises infertility as a physical illness that requires treatment... Are you all saying that the WHO is wrong for saying this. I pay into the system just like the next person and should be entitled to help to have children. My wife is thoroughly upset that she isn't able to have children. If you are going to stop funding on the NHS and say that people who want IVF should pay for it themselves, then you need to tell the smokers, obese, alcoholics, etc who get diseases from these self inflicted addictions to save up too for their own treatment. The attitude of people in this country towards couples who can't have children is utterly disgusting and shameful to say the least!
- Chris, March, England, 07/6/2011 16:24
Spending public money on frivolous treatments such as IVF is just wicked when there is a not enough to pay for vital treatment e.g. for old people, cancer etc.
- David, London, 07/6/2011 16:20
I'm sorry but I completely disagree! Red arrow me all you want. So are they now going to stop likes of gastric bands on the NHS? I hope so in order to justify this article!!
- Disgusted, Taxpayer, 07/6/2011 16:18
My mum is a foster carer - some of the children in her care have awful backgrounds and some are just not wanted by their families. If someonje is desperate to have a child - they will adopt. I dont think IVF should be available on the NHS.
- HANNAH, WARKS, 07/6/2011 15:37
If you want IVF badly enough SAVE UP FOR IT!!!! I bet you'll find a spare dollar or 2 when you all know the NHS aint picking the tab up!
- Lauren, Middlesbrough, 07/6/2011 15:32
I was going to comment on the excellent news that the NHS is stopping wasting my money funding IVF, but I see that so many people have beaten me to it. At last some common sense.
- Keith, Wales, 07/6/2011 15:28
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