Petition for access to IVF goes to Number 10

The fertility patient charity Fertility Network presented its #Scream4IVF petition calling for fair access to NHS fertility treatment and an end to the IVF postcode lottery to 10 Downing Street on Monday afternoon. More than 100,000 people signed the online petition. It was a remarkable feat by a small charity to get such support for this cause and to be able to present the petition in this way.

Fertility Network’s chief executive Aileen Feeney said: ‘Gathering 100,000 signatures, in such a short space of time, demonstrates the overwhelming public support to end the unethical and unfair IVF postcode lottery and create an equitable system for access to NHS fertility services in the UK.These 100,000 signatures represent the screams of pain and frustration from not being able to have a child without medical help – and not having your screams heard. The screams of childbirth are loud, but the screams of infertility are just as loud and today they are finally being heard. In the face of this overwhelming public pressure, Fertility Network urgently calls on the Government to debate in Westminster the issue of fair access to NHS fertility treatment.’

Steve McCabe, the MP for Birmingham Selly Oak has been a key political supporter of the campaign for fair access to treatment and he was present when the petition was handed in. Steve’s  Access to Fertility Services bill will have its second reading at Westminster later this month. He said: ’I am thrilled so many people have got behind our campaign to end the postcode lottery of access to IVF. Infertility is a medical condition and it is completely unfair that access to IVF treatment depends on where you live. We can’t have a situation where local NHS groups are allowed to ignore NICE guidelines and ration treatment to save money. It is simply unfair and we wouldn’t stand for it if we were talking about other medical conditions such as cancer or diabetes. It is clear that the public are behind our campaign so now we need the government to step up to the plate and take action to end this disgraceful postcode lottery.’

A doctor’s view of IVF funding cuts

When we hear about cuts to funding for fertility treatment, it’s often presented as yet another Clinical Commissioning Group deciding to reduce what they offer to couples with fertility problems. We hear about the statistics for the tiny number of areas in England where IVF is offered in the way that NICE considers both clinically and cost effective. We hear that in certain parts of the country, commissioners are rationing IVF by making random decisions about who is eligible which have nothing to do with how likely the treatment is to work. We hear about the postcode lottery and how unfair this is within a health service that is meant to be national.

What we don’t hear so much about is what any of this actually means to the real people who have to live with the consequences of these cuts to funding – and that’s why this article from Adam Kay in The Times is so important. For anyone who doesn’t know, Adam Kay is the author of This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor’ and worked for a number of years as an obstetrician and gynaecologist.

Adam Kay’s article lays bear the reality of fertility funding cuts as experienced by the patients he saw – the woman who attempted suicide after learning she wasn’t eligible for IVF when she would have been if she lived just five miles away, the grief couples experience when they learn that they won’t be able to access any treatment for their medical condition.  Adam Kay talks about this from the perspective of a professional delivering the news, and that makes this so compelling. It’s such an important point of view and really helps to explain why those who dismiss fertility treatment as a “lifestyle choice” have got it so very wrong.

Thanks to Adam Kay for speaking out to support fertility patients across the UK – and let’s hope for more professionals talking honestly about the impact of funding cuts in their clinics, and what it means to them and to their patients. This really can make so much difference. It’s easy to dismiss statistics about cuts to fertility funding and to ignore concerns about a postcode lottery. It’s not so easy to dismiss the way this affects the lives of real people.

Fertility Day of Action

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 –

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!


Can you help stop the cuts?

Cmhc-LqWYAAWk88Fertility Network UK have a number of media requests for people to talk about how the cuts to NHS fertility services that are happening across England are affecting them. They really need people who are willing to talk about it as the situation is only reported on when the media can give an insight into how this affects those who need treatment.

In particular, they are looking for people who are unable to access any NHS IVF services because they live in South Norfolk, mid-Essex or north-east Essex where funding has been cut completely. They also need people who live in areas where NHS IVF could be cut completely in the near future: Basildon & Brentwood, Bedfordshire, Ipswich and East Suffolk, and West Suffolk. Other areas where cuts have occurred include Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, North East Lincolnshire and Somerset.

ITV news have been looking for people affected by the postcode lottery anywhere in the UK. They are keen to speak to people who have moved house to try to access NHS treatment, who are going overseas because they can’t access NHS treatment or are embarking on treatment in the private sector because they can’t get NHS treatment.

This is your chance to have your voice heard. Email or phone 07469-660845.

Are you a victim of the IVF postcode lottery?

The_Houses_of_Parliament, you are affected by the postcode lottery for NHS-funded fertility services in England, then contacting your MP is one of the most important ways that you can help to lobby to save NHS-funded IVF.

The charity Infertility Network UK is launching a campaign to encourage fertility patients to write to their MPs to tell them how they are affected by the postcode lottery and what the rationing of fertility treatment means to them. The charity have prepared a draft letter or email which you can amend to include details of the impact your fertility problems have on your life. You can find the template for the letter or email at the bottom of this webpage and details of how to contact your MP here – you can just put in your postcode to find out who your MP is if you aren’t sure. You can also send a copy of your correspondence to Jane Ellison, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health at the Department of Health, Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London SW1A 2NS.

Infertility Network UK and Fertility Fairness believe it is unacceptable that 83 per cent of England’s clinical commissioning groups ignore public health guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and do not provide three full cycles of NHS fertility treatment and hope to change that with your help.

Does your MP support Fertility Fairness?

Y3qgabAY_400x400The campaign group Fertility Fairness is encouraging fertility patients to ask their MPs to attend a Parliamentary Reception in March to help them to become more aware of the realities of the postcode lottery when it comes to fertility treatment.

The reception is titled “Fertility Services: The Picture Doesn’t Have to Look Like This”,  and will take place on March 25. It has been sponsored by Ian Austin MP.

The event will examine the progress that has been made in the last year towards commissioning the three full cycles of IVF recommended by NICE, and will present a picture of the current situation. There will be examples of best practice to show how the system could work successfully.

Fertility Fairness would appreciate as many patients as possible writing to MPs to ask them to attend – you can find details here 

Fertility Fairness

Y3qgabAY_400x400If you want to know more about NHS funding for fertility treatment, there’s a fabulous new website which can tell you everything you want to know! The new Fertility Fairness website has details of funding policies across the UK – and tells you what you can do to help the campaign to put an end to the postcode lottery and get fair access to treatment for everyone.

Fertility Fairness used to be known as the National Infertility Awareness Campaign and has support from a wide range of professional and patient organisations involved in fertility.

To find out more, visit the website at

The truth about IVF funding

We have known that NHS funding for fertility treatment is patchy, despite last year’s NICE guideline which recommended that three full cycles of treatment should be provided for eligible women who were 39 and under.  Now, the first survey to look at how funding is working since the NHS system changed and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) were brought in has revealed the truth about what is really happening on the ground.

The comprehensive audit carried out by the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC) shows that 73% of CCGs fell short of the NICE guideline recommendation of providing 3 full cycles of IVF/ICSI to eligible couples. Of those that funded treatment, around 49% only offered one cycle of treatment, around 24% offered two cycles and 24% offered three cycles

Since April 2013, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have been responsible for commissioning fertility services, replacing Primary Care Trusts (PCTs).  Apparently some CCGs are currently reviewing their policies on assisted conception, but many are ignoring NICE guidance and using social criteria set in place by PCTs to ensure that the number of people who qualify for treatment is limited.

Clare Lewis-Jones, chair of NIAC said: “It is now nearly 10 years since the original NICE guideline was published and yet here we are, in 2013, still facing a situation whereby the level of service is determined by postcode. Sutton and Merton, along with the CCGs covering the former North Yorkshire and York PCT, have all chosen to follow the policy of their predecessor PCTs, and are consequently offering no funding for IVF. 

 This report gives a snapshot of IVF provision across England during the summer of 2013; sadly many patients will find they are no better off than in 2011 when the last national audit of this kind was carried out. NICE’s retention of the three cycle recommendation in its updated guideline in February 2013 should send a clear signal to commissioners as to the level of service patients should receive.

Whilst we are pleased to highlight areas of best practice in our report, we are incredibly disappointed to learn that since we carried out the research several CCGs in the East of England have carried out a review of their services and are now considering a reduction in the number of cycles from the recommended three to two. Not only is this contrary to the NICE guideline and detrimental to the desired outcome of the treatment, but it also means we can no longer confidently hold up the region as a shining example to others.

 I acknowledge the fact that CCGs are still finding their feet but this should not prevent commissioners from acting on NICE’s latest guideline – which should serve as the basis for all future funding discussions at a local level. I hope they will use the information contained within this report to inform their thinking.”

NICE guidelines are based on not only what is clinically effective, but also what is cost effective, and it seems extraordinary that so many CCGs should be choosing to completely ignore them. We are meant to have a NATIONAL health service, but when it comes to fertility it’s still your postcode that is going to dictate whether or not you qualify for treatment.


Would you ask strangers for money to pay for IVF?

It may sound incredible, but apparently people are having to come up with ever more inventive ways to fund their fertility treatment in the current economic situation.  With many couples already living on overdrafts, cutting back on holidays or other luxuries will not free up the ready cash needed, and getting loans or using already overloaded credit cards is becoming increasingly difficult. So, in the States at least, some couples have apparently turned to the internet using websites or Facebook to ask strangers for money to fund their treatment – see this article.  Could you consider this? Should you have to?

Here in the UK, the postcode lottery for treatment continues to cause distress to many couples who find they can’t access IVF despite being eligible according to the national guidelines because in their local area the primary care trust has decided not to fund treatment – or to ration it.  It can be very difficult to find the money for private treatment which will cost more than the NHS would pay.  Lord Winston campaigned on this some time ago – saying that many clinics were hugely overcharging for fertility treatment and that it could be far cheaper.

Asking strangers for money may seem extreme, but does perhaps illustrate how difficult it can be to live with involuntary childlessness…