Couples denied IVF treatment

If you have been refused IVF (in vitro fertilisation) treatment on the NHS you are not alone. The BBC reports that “more than 70% of NHS trusts and care providers are ignoring official guidance on offering infertile couples three chances at IVF.”

Number of IVF cycles offered on NHS

Only 39% of NHS Trusts offer recommended three cycles to couples seeking fertility treatment

Fertility problems affect 1 in 7 couples, that is 3.5 million people in the UK. NHS trusts are under increasing pressure to offer IVF treatments but are failing to meet NICE recommendations of three cycles.

Three cycles not available to all

The report comes from an all-party group of 22 MPs looking at infertility and the availability of IVF by the NHS. Of the 152 primary care trusts (PCT) who responded to the groups freedom of information requests, they found that:

  • 73% offered fewer than the three cycles recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
  • 5 PCTs did not offer any IVF treatment at all.
  • Some PCTs place age restrictions on who was eligible for IVF.

NICE recommendations ignored

NICE recommends that couples with fertility problems should be offered up to three cycles of IVF on the NHS. To be eligible,

  • the woman must be aged 23–39 at the time of IVF
  • the couple must have have an identified cause for their fertility problems or have been infertile for three years.

Health Minister Anne Milton said in a foreword to the report that the report “goes some way towards highlighting some of the difficulties that infertile couples can face in accessing treatment”.

Gareth Johnson MP for Dartford and Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infertility, said “IVF is the creation of life and gives hope to thousands of infertile couples across the UK. IVF treatment was invented in Britain and so more than any other country we should be championing its use. As Chairman of the APPG on Infertility, I believe that all PCTs should be offering three cycles of treatment as recommended by the NICE guidelines.

“One in Seven couples in the UK suffer from infertility problems, indeed more women attend GP surgeries to obtain advice on infertility than any other issue other than pregnancy. This shows just how big an issue infertility is for so many people.”

Thinking about IVF?

Our Fertility Coach, Lisa Marsh, provides a guide to what you can expect and how to assess your chance of having a baby if you need IVF.


The BBC, MPs condemn NHS regional variation in IVF provision, June 7 2011

PPG on Infertility: 73 % of PCTs are failing to provide recommended IVF treatments. Infertility network UK press release, June 7 2011

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