Single women and IVF

It’s one thing for commissioners to decide they don’t have enough money for IVF and that they will ration who can access it, but it is quite another when they use dubious evidence to justify their decisions. In South East London, single women have been unable to access IVF for years thanks to a policy which claims they can’t have the treatment due to “the known disadvantage that providing assisted conception to a single woman would cause both the child and the mother”. This “known disadvantage” was outlined in a document produced in 2011 which stated that single women were “unable to bring out the best outcomes for the child”. The area covered by this policy includes the clinical commissioning groups in Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark.

The truth is that there is no such “known disadvantage” to offering IVF to single women. Let’s be clear, women seeking IVF by themselves have thought long and hard about their decision. They will not be choosing IVF on a whim but will have spent time working out how they would cope financially and making sure that they have support mechanisms in place. Their children will be much longed-for as well as carefully planned for. I don’t know quite where the “evidence” in this report came from, but it is simply not correct to make such sweeping claims across the board and to suggest they apply to women having fertility treatment when there is clear evidence to the contrary – see this article in The Guardian from Genevieve Roberts.

According to The Times, the 2011 document also says denying IVF “has a limited impact on a woman’s life satisfaction”. It makes you wonder quite how this document was put together, and how many women have been denied treatment due to the flawed research which looks to have been more about finding a reason for rationing than exploring realities.

It is only thanks to Greenwich MP Matthew Pennycook that this has been highlighted and according to the HSJ, the South East London commissioners are now conducting a “rapid review”. It will be too late for the women who have been unable to access treatment in recent years, but let’s hope the rapid review leads to a rapid change of policy and a glimmer of light for those seeking IVF in the future.