Thousands denied IVF because of British red tape restrictions
Thousands of couples in Britain are being denied the chance to become parents because the country has one of the most restrictive policies in Europe when it comes to publicly funding fertility treatment.They were speaking after a study was presented at an IVF conference showing that only Russia and Ireland offer worse access.
At the moment about 13,000 babies are born every year in Britain thanks to IVF and another technique called ICSI, which is mainly used to counter male infertility.
However, the new study indicates that number could be up to three times higher, if our policies matched those of the most generous nations.
Among those with more generous IVF programmes include Slovakia, Montenegro, Czech Republic and Slovenia.
Dr Mark Connolly, an American health economist based at Groningen University in The Netherlands, compared public funding of Fertility treatments and how frequently they was used in 23 European countries in 2008. The UK came third from bottom in terms of reimbursement, and also had among the lowest number of “assisted reproduction technology” cycles per million people.
Europe-wide, he said there was a “highly significant relationship between high levels of public reimbursement and high levels of utilisation”.
For example in Belgium, one of the most generous countries, there were 2,479 cycles per million people. In the UK there were only 825.
Under guidelines issued by the National Institute Curbing Expenditure (Nice), primary care trusts (PCTs) should offer up to three full cycles of IVF – which includes giving hormones that stimulate release of eggs, egg retrieval, test-tube fertilisation, reimplantation of viable embryos and freezing of unused embryos for later use – to infertile women from 23 to 42.
In practice, only a quarter do so, found a group of MPs who looked at provision across England last year. Since then some have tightens restrictions, such as refusing treatment to smokers and the obese, to reduce costs.
Speaking at the annual conference of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Istanbul, Dr Connolly said most English PCTs were “feeble” in their ability to fund three cycles of IVF.
Clare Lewis-Jones, chairman of the National Infertility Awareness Campaign, said: “For thousands of couples here, the dream of having a child of their own remains elusive: many are denied IVF because their PCT or health board is reluctant to fund sufficient treatment.
“We will continue our fight for fair and equitable access to IVF and ICSI on the NHS, a situation that simply does not exist in the UK. Despite the fact that IVF was pioneered in our country, we are near the bottom of the list in terms of the number of cycles performed. Those suffering from the disease of infertility have the right to expect the chance to have a healthy baby of their own.”
Tags: IVF, maternity, NICE, NICE blight, pregnancy, Quangos