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More NHS infertility treatment for infertile couples

Charlotte Maden

Progress Educational Trust

01 September 2008

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[BioNews, London] The NHS has been advised to offer more fertility treatment cycles to infertile couples by a government advisory committee, in a bid to abolish the IVF postcode lottery that exists in the UK.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends providing couples in which the woman is aged between 23 and 39, three full cycles of IVF, as well as the replacement of frozen embryos, should a couple fail to conceive with fresh ones.

The Expert Group on Commissioning NHS Infertility Provision, which was established by health ministers earlier this year, will release a report to add pressure to PCTs to offer this treatment. Currently, only 5 per cent of PCTs in England offer it. About two thirds offer only one cycle, and half of these do not replace frozen embryos. Three trusts offer no IVF at all.

Infertility affects up to one in seven couples in the UK. The limited NHS provision of IVF means that of the 45,000 IVF cycles carried out in the UK each year, around three-quarters of these are done privately, costing about 2,000 per cycle.

The report states that up until now, IVF 'has not been seen as a traditional NHS service and, therefore, is often viewed as a relatively low priority compared to more visible conditions whose impact is well established'.

It continues: 'the group's final report will seek to consider the often unseen consequences of infertility, including the impact on mental health and general wellbeing, which may draw on other NHS services for treatment, as well as the positive benefits of IVF'.

Health Minister Dawn Primarolo last week wrote to all PCTs to clarify the new guidelines. The NHS East of England has agreed to implement them in all 14 of its trusts, meaning that infertile couples in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire that meet the eligibility criteria will be entitled to the treatment.

Peter Greewood, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist and lead clinician for the Fertility Services Project Steering Group, says that 'couples will be tremendously excited about this news. It has been very frustrating for people who cannot afford the big costs of going through private treatment if their one cycle with the NHS had not worked for them, leaving them worrying if they would ever have a child'.

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 01 September 2008   Date Updated: 01 September 2008
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