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23 January 2014

UK: Women denied fertility treatment because of ‘unfair’ rules

Most clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will not fund treatments for women if their partners smoke, are obese, drink too much or have children from a previous relationship, warns a report by the National Infertility Awareness Campaign.

Six CCGs stopped paying for IVF altogether. Three quarters are refusing to offer women at least three courses of treatment, as set out in official guidelines, because it is too expensive, the Daily Mail reports.

Heartbroken couples say this postcode lottery has ‘devastated their lives’ and means many will be unable to have children because they cannot afford private treatment.

Around 3.5million couples in Britain have fertility problems, which the NHS defines as not being able to conceive naturally within three years. Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence watchdog (NICE) state that women aged 23 to 42 who are unable to conceive naturally should be offered three courses of in-vitro fertilisation.

But a report by a group of charities calling themselves the National Infertility Awareness Campaign found that 73 per cent of health trusts do not follow these rules.

The trusts – which are now called clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which include all GP surgeries in a particular area – were set up to replace primary care trusts in 2012 to commission Health Service treatment for their patients. Most only offer women one or two courses, which lessens the likelihood of the treatment succeeding. Several do not offer any, including Sutton and Merton in South London and four in North Yorkshire and York.

Susan Seenan, of the charity Infertility Network, said: ‘It’s not fair. Where you live shouldn’t determine how much treatment you are allowed. The CCGs are still not seeing infertility as a priority, some of them say it’s a lifestyle choice. Why would anyone choose to be infertile?’

More than half of clinical commissioning groups will not offer IVF to couples if one already has a child from a previous relationship, even though this is not a stipulation in the NICE guidelines. And many CCGs will not provide the treatment to couples if one of them smokes, drinks even a moderate amount of alcohol or is obese.

How 73% of health trusts won’t fund full IVF: Thousands of women being denied treatment because of rules to save money. Daily Mail, 23 January 2014

Audit shows CCGs failing to meet guidelines. Infertility Network UK, 22 January 2014