The latest figures released by Fertility Fairness earlier this week about funding for IVF treatment have been described as “shocking” by the President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Professor Lesley Regan.
Commenting on the fact that so few clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are currently following national guidance and that the number which have completely removed NHS IVF has almost doubled in the last year, Professor Regan said “These figures are shocking and it’s very disappointing to see even fewer CCGs following NICE guidance and providing full access to NHS fertility treatment. Current access to treatment is a postcode lottery and these health inequalities people face are unacceptable. Infertility can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, causing distress, depression, and the breakdown of relationships. IVF treatment is cost-effective and should be available on the NHS. The RCOG is committed to working with UK commissioners and healthcare providers to support them in following NICE Fertility Guidelines.”
If you’re concerned by the postcode lottery for fertility treatment, you can join the Fertility Network UK Day of Action on 25 March. You don’t have to go out marching anywhere, but just a few small actions can make all the difference
There are three ways you can join in –
Contact your MP, Tell them how the postcode lottery is affecting you and what is happening in your local area. You can find out more about how to find your MP’s contact details and what you might want to say in an email or letter here on the Fertility Network UK website.
You can tweet your support using the hashtags #IVFx3 #tellyourMP #righttotry
Fertility guidelines from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) say that if you should be able to access 3 full cycles of NHS IVF if you under 40 and eligible for treatment, An overwhelming 98 per cent of England’s 209 local clinical commissioning groups (CCGS) do not follow this guidance fully and have either cut the number of IVF cycles they offer and ration services by introducing additional non-medical access criteria, such as denying IVF to individuals if their partner has a child from a previous relationship.
Do join in and help your charity to help you to make a difference!
I was glad to see that the fact that waiting times for NHS treatment in Wales can lag behind those in England has been highlighted in the news today. The news focused on care for certain key conditions, with the biggest difference for hip operations where patients in Wales wait an average of four months longer than those in England. The research also found longer waits for stomach operations and getting diagnosed for pneumonia, with differences in some other areas too.
One of the biggest differences in waiting times not highlighted in this report is for IVF where fertility patients are often having to wait considerably longer than they would do in the rest of the UK. It is far from uncommon to be waiting for a year for fertility treatment in Wales, and this inequality of access is yet another strand of the postcode lottery for IVF in the UK – where you live really does have a huge impact on not only how long you wait, but also how much treatment you can access and what kind of eligibility criteria apply.
In some areas, fertility patients are paying in order to have additional treatments which aren’t funded by the health service on top of their treatment. This may be for additional tests, or for extra treatments. If you’ve been asked to pay for any extra tests or treatments when having IVF, we’d be interested to find out how much you paid and what for. This can be anonymous – please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have personal experience of this. Thanks!
Another event for you if you’re based in Northern Ireland – on Saturday October 3 there’s a fertility information day in Belfast organised by Infertility Network UK. It will cover a huge range of fertility-related topics including NHS treatment and funding, counselling, fertility investigations, treating endometriosis, embryology, nutrition and recruiting an egg donor.
The day will be held at the Long Gallery at the Parliament Buildings at Stormont, and it will run from 9 am to 3.30pm. The cost is £10.00, but if you book before 28 August, you can get an earlybird booking for just £5.00. For professionals the cost is £20.00, with an early booking fee of £10.00 before 28th August.
Access to NHS-funded fertility treatment in the UK is still a postcode lottery, and what you get depends entirely on where you live. What’s also becoming more apparent is that in some areas people are paying for additional tests and treatment when they are having NHS-funded IVF or ICSI, but this doesn’t happen everywhere.
Some fertility patients are paying for time-lapse imaging, for endometrial scratch or for embryo glue for example – and others are reporting being asked to cough up for tests before treatment such as AMH tests or even sperm freezing and storage.
Your experience of extras for NHS-funded IVF
The patient support charity Infertility Network UK is trying to build up a picture of what people are currently experiencing, so if you’ve paid for any additional tests or treatments on top of your NHS-funded IVF or ICSI, it would be really useful if you could let them know. All responses will be totally confidential, and you can email email@example.com. If you have paid and are able to give a rough idea of how much you have paid this would be helpful, and they would also like to hear from you if you would have liked to pay for some extras but this was not permitted.
It’s fantastic news that in Scotland access to IVF treatment is to be standardised to put an end to the postcode lottery for fertility patients. With new investment, people who need help to conceive across the country will know exactly where they stand and what they can expect to receive. Although for the time being they will only be offered two cycles of treatment rather than the three cycles recommended by the NICE, the initiative also aims to reduce waiting times. Criteria used to assess eligibility will be standardised so the same rules will apply to everyone, no matter where they live.
Of course this move is to be applauded, but it’s high time that the rest of the UK followed suit. In England, there are huge regional variations in NHS-funded treatment which are unfair and quite wrong – in many cases, commissioners have seemed to make up the rules as they go along. It is completely crazy that access for treatment for a medical condition is determined entirely by where you live – and a situation that we can only hope will not be allowed to continue for much longer.