Postcode lottery for IVF treatment faced by patients
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie called on the Scottish government to end what she described as a postcode lottery on IVF treatment.
Figures obtained by the MSP under a freedom of information request showed that the longest average waiting times among the 11 boards that responded were in NHS Lothian, where patients wait three years for treatment. Patients in the Borders, referred to the same unit in NHS Lothian, had no waiting time.
In Glasgow the average wait was 22 months, while couples from Lanarkshire were referred to the same hospital, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, within an average of six months.
In Fife the average wait for IVF treatment was two years. In NHS Highland and Tayside it was one year, and in Grampian a maximum of 18 months.
“This shows clearly that it is the board of residence that determines length of wait,” Ms Baillie said. “There is no consistency in the rules. NHS Borders will fund patients for treatment in neighbouring areas if they have shorter waiting lists, but other health boards refuse to consider such a sensible step.”
Although some boards, notably NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, did not reveal the number of patients, Ms Baillie’s figures indicate that more than 1,000 couples across Scotland are waiting to see a specialist.
Long waiting times have a particular resonance for inferitlity treatment, as a woman’s age is critical to success rates. One expert describes the age factor as “the most monumental challenge”.
Ms Baillie said national guidelines were needed to ensure that patients were treated fairly and had access to treatment as quickly as possible.
Shona Robison, the Public Health Minister said: “There is huge demand for IVF and we know it can be very upsetting to have to wait for treatment, but we are working to make access as fair as possible.”
Jackie Sansbury, of NHS Lothian, said: “We are investing an additional £180,000 to increase the number of IVF cycles we are able to offer by about 40 per cent during 2009-2010.”