It’s estimated that one out of every six couples struggles with infertility, and the World Health Organization officially classifies infertility as a disease. Yet the funding criteria for things like In Vitro Fertilization in the United Kingdom is complicated and limited to a postcode lottery system.
Growing frustration over inadequacies in the system has prompted more than 100,000 people to add their name to a petition calling for Prime Minister Theresa May to end the postcode lottery for IVF treatments through the National Health Service. Advocates are requesting a more-fair system that would allow couples living in different areas of the country to have equal access to fertility treatments.
Over the course of a two-month period, the online petition collected over 102,000 signatures. The Chief Executive for the Fertility Network, Aileen Feeney, said it clearly demonstrated the public’s support for ending the IVF postcode lottery system. The fact that it was able to gather such high numbers in such a short span of time illustrates the unethical and unfair criteria of IVF postcode lottery and that the NHS needs to redevelop a more equitable system for providing access to fertility services throughout the UK.
Controversy Over Access To IVF Treatments
The petition was handed down to Prime Minister May in September of 2018. Petitions that collect at least 100,000 signatures are considered for debate in Parliament. Currently, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that women under 40 years of age should be offered three cycles of IVF. It also recommends that only one cycle should be provided for women between the ages of 40 t0 42.
Yet the Fertility Network notes that these are recommendations and that they are not mandatory. In fact, it’s estimated that approximately 13% of the 195 Clinical Commissioning Groups in England offered three IVF cycles funded through the National Health Service.
This statistic is somewhat alarming when compared to Scotland where three cycles of IVF were available for women under the age of 40. This also included access for couples where one or both partners had a child from a previous relationship. Yet this treatment level was only offered to couples in three of England’s Clinical Commissioning Groups.
The Fertility Network went on to note that women in Wales were provided with access to two cycles of IVF, which included couples with a child from a previous relationship. In Northern Ireland, only one partial cycle of IVF was offered, and it still included access for couples with previous children.
Unfortunately, in England 9 out of 10 Clinical Commissioning Groups still do not allow National Health Services funded access to IVF for couples where one of the partners has a child from a previous relationship. Still, others prefer to set their own age limits and requirements that differ at times from the recommendations offered by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence.
This can include setting their own age limits for women, as well as barring access for women under the age of 25. Some self-directed limits set by the Clinical Commissioning Groups also restricts IVF services if the male is over the age of 55.
The group Fertility Fairness also reported that 27% of the Clinical Commissioning Groups in England also factored in the male Body Mass Index when determining whether or not a couple could be eligible for IVF treatment services.
Political Sentiment For A Change In IVF Policy
So far, the petition which goes under the hashtag #Scream4IVF has managed to gather cross-party support from a wide range of politicians. This even includes the Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Vince Cable as well as the Labour party’s Steve McCabe.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman explained that IVF treatment-related birthrates in the United Kingdom have steadily grown by more than 85% since 1991. The spokesman further added that all IVF treatment decisions should be made by a patient’s doctors based on the individual’s clinical needs while also remaining in-line with the guidelines established by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence.
IVF Options And Costs
Couples who aren’t permitted access to NHS funded IVF services, face some difficult choices. This might include uprooting and moving to a different area where access criteria are more favorable or seeking IVF treatments overseas where access is not limited or is at least more affordable.
Couples who are contemplating shouldering the cost of IVF treatments from a clinic in England may have some struggles shouldering the financial burden. The Director of the King’s Fertility Clinic in London, Dr. Ippokratis Sarris, notes that the cost for a full cycle at his clinic runs around £3,500. However, couples also need to bear in mind that there are additional costs for things like drugs and follow up treatments. They should expect a full IVF cycle to cost between £4,500 and £6,000.
Source – Metro