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.
Sarah 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 www.fertilityfairness.co.uk