Report Calls IVF 'A Postcode Lottery'

7 June 2011, 10:05 | Updated: 7 June 2011, 10:08

A group of MPs has criticised the differences between IVF treatment in health trusts across the UK, saying it's a postcode lottery of care.

A report has found many have put strict limits on who they'll treat - in Bournemouth only women aged between 30 and 35 are eligible, in Hampshire it's 30 to 34.

More than 70% of NHS trusts are ignoring guidance to offer infertile couples three chances at IVF and some have stopped funding treatment altogether, according to the report.

Five PCTs, including West Sussex, offer no IVF at all.

In Wales, many health trusts only allow women IVF between the ages of 38.5 and 40. This means younger women can wait years for NHS treatment despite the fact fertility declines with age.

In 2004, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) said couples should be given up to three cycles of IVF on the NHS, where the woman is aged 23 to 39.

But despite repeated Government reminders on the issue, the guidelines have never been fully implemented across the NHS.

Freedom of Information results for 152 PCTs found many also had strict criteria on age, weight, smoking status of the couple and restrictions on IVF if one partner already had a child, regardless of whether they had contact with them.

The report said the criteria revealed that the Nice guidelines had been “taken out of context by PCTs and used to place arbitrary restrictions on the provision of IVF”.

Gareth Johnson, Conservative MP for Dartford and chairman of the APPG 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.”

A spokeswoman at NHS West Sussex said: “In line with NHS trusts across the country, we did have to face some tough decisions last year to ensure that we met our legal duty to break even financially.

“Inevitably that meant prioritising spending to support health services which are relied on by those with the most serious health needs, and as a result one of the decisions was to suspend IVF treatment in West Sussex until the new financial year.

“However, this was not a blanket ban for treatment and if someone had a compelling medical need they would have been considered for treatment.

“Now we are in the new financial year, the decision we made last year on fertility treatment has been reviewed and funding has been reinstated for all eligible cases.”