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22 April 2010, 06:00
The number of couples signing up for IVF on the NHS in Oxfordshire's more than trebled since the age range was lowered.
The age criteria was lowered in December 2009 to incorporate women aged between 30 and 34 years old (before they had to be between 35 and 38).
Between December 2008 and the end of March 2009, 36 couples were approved funding for IVF on the NHS in Oxfordshire. A year on, that figure jumped to 130 couples.
At the moment, while the rules are changed, some women aged 35 and 36 are still entitled to IVF as they would have otherwise missed out when the rules changed. This group are also included in the numbers and therefore contribute to the jump in figures.
But one of the main reasons there's been a huge leap in the number of couples being approved IVF is because some women who were 29 knowingly waited a year until the rules changed and they turned 30. Before they would have had to pay for the treatment.
Tim Child, a Consultant Gynaecologist at the Oxford Fertility Unit, has told Heart one of the reasons the NHS changed the age criteria in Oxfordshire is because IVF is more successful for younger women. The number of live births among women aged 30-34 having IVF is 10 per cent higher than among those in the older group.
This makes financial sense to the NHS, but women are still only entitled to one free cycle of IVF on the NHS in Oxfordshire.
NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) who advises health authorities on what practices they should implement, recommends each women in England is eligable for three courses of IVF.
In the East of England, which includes Bedfordshire, patients aged 23-39 are entitled to three fresh and three frozen cycles of IVF.