The cost of private fertility treatment

New research has found huge discrepancies in the prices people are charged for IVF and for many extras such as blood tests or drugs as reported here in the Times. It can be difficult if you need treatment as you don’t always feel you have time to shop around – but this shows that it is at least worth making a few calls to see whether anywhere closer to you may offer treatment at a lower price. If you do this though, you do need to make sure that the price isn’t lower because not everything is included in the cost you are being given  or because the treatment is not the same. It is also important to be aware that the headline costs on clinic websites often have little to do with the real costs that you will end up paying as a patient.

It’s not just the treatment itself where costs can differ but also the prices paid for any additional treatments which some patients are now considering. When I was looked into this, I was surprised at how big the differences were in the charges for add ons. For example, some clinics were including embryo glue in the cost of an IVF cycle whilst others were charging for it and the costs ranged from £75 to £350. It was a similar picture with endometrial scratch, which you might be able to get free at some clinics across the country by taking part in a clinical trial or which could cost you up to £450. I looked at a small sample of clinics and even in those, found these wide price discrepancies but it does show that it is worth at the very least asking why your clinic is charging what it does if it is much more than others.

Finally, don’t forget that the cost is one part of the equation. If you are having to travel a long distance to the clinic – or if it is overseas – this in itself adds costs both financial and in terms of stress. You will also want to check out the clinic details on the HFEA website to see the latest outcomes from treatment and to see how it is ranked by inspectors and other patients. There is a section in the patient ratings about cost which is particularly relevant as it shows whether people ended up paying more than they expected for treatment at that particular clinic so make sure you have at least considered these things before committing yourself.

One cycle of IVF for York

So Vale of York CCG has decided today that it will be offering one cycle of IVF – the BBC describes it as a “U-turn” but it’s actually more of an S bend; they didn’t fund, then they said they would fund a single cycle, then they decided they couldn’t afford it and now it seems they can. Let’s just hope that this time patients can benefit from the decision and that some of those who have been waiting will finally be able to access NHS-funded fertility treatment.

It’s important not to forget in all the excitement about York finally starting funding that this still falls very short of what NICE recommends – which is three full cycles for women of 39 and under. The BBC tells us that one cycle of IVF “costs the NHS £3,600” – one of the real problems with NHS funding is that no one knows how much a cycle of IVF should cost the NHS, and that some CCGs pay twice as much for this as others. York had calculated the cost of just over 100 cycle at an astonishing £2 million, and then seems to have had a bit of a rethink on this. Perhaps if it was clear exactly how much IVF should cost the NHS, we would see far more fertility funding

The shocking truth about the cost of IVF to the NHS

You’d assume that the amount the NHS pays for each IVF cycle is pretty much the same wherever you live – and that commissioners negotiate a good deal given that they are purchasing IVF treatments in bulk…

In fact, the campaign group Fertility Fairness has discovered that the amount paid by the NHS for a cycle of IVF treatment varies hugely across the UK, costing at least twice as much in some areas as in others. Fertility Fairness has gathered information from all but one of the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) across England which shows that average prices paid for IVF range from £2,900 to £6,000, with some claiming even higher and lower costs.

Their audit also shows a clear reduction in the number of CCGs offering the three full cycles of IVF treatment recommended, with just 18% currently offering what NICE recommends.  Two CCGs offer no IVF funding at all, and seven others were claiming to offer three cycles of IVF when in fact they only offered one.

Y3qgabAY_400x400Sarah Norcross, Co-Chair of Fertility Fairness, said: “Our audit has revealed a picture of widespread confusion about the real cost of IVF, and illustrates the need for a national tariff to inject some parity and value into the commissioning process. Cost is cited by NHS commissioners as a major barrier to complying with NICE guidance, and yet we now know that it is not even clear how much an individual cycle of IVF should cost. The discrepancies are huge, and this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Susan Seenan, Chief Executive of patient charity Infertility Network UK said: “Access to fertility treatment in the UK still depends entirely on where you live, and patients are at the mercy of the postcode lottery. Now it appears that some CCGs are apparently paying more for a cycle of NHS-funded IVF than an individual patient might expect to be charged at a private clinic. It is patients who suffer the effects of this mismanaged system. Clear guidance on costing would help CCGs to implement the NICE guideline fully and allow patients to access the treatment they need.”

For more information about Fertility Fairness, visit

Cheap IVF drugs again

If you’re having fertility treatment, it really does make sense to shop around for the drugs you’ll need as you may be able to make quite substantial savings – which can have an impact on the overall cost of your treatment.  There’s another newspaper article on the subject this week from the Shields Gazette in South Shields about a pharmacist who says she saved £150 by buying her drugs from ASDA where she happens to work.

Of course, it’s a useful piece of PR for ASDA, but it doesn’t alter the fact that you may be able to make savings if you’re paying for your own drugs during your IVF treatment – and with so much fertility treatment being carried out in the private sector, it only makes sense not to spend more than you have to.