Smokers and obese people denied IVF by some NHS trusts
Progress Educational Trust12 March 2012
Nine NHS primary care trusts (PCTs) have introduced restrictions to IVF treatment for patients who smoke or are overweight.
Data obtained under the Freedom of Information act by Pulse, a magazine for GPs, indicate that 25 out of 91 PCTs have introduced new regulations related to smoking and weight since April 2011. In addition to IVF, there are also restrictions for patients wanting to undergo treatments such as hip and knee replacements and varicose veins.
Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said that some of the restrictions, particularly for IVF, were 'dreadful'. She said: 'It's becoming the deserving and the undeserving. I think it's discriminatory and I find it astonishing. The Government should determine what should be applied universally'.
In Cornwall and Devon, couples must have quit smoking for six months before they are allowed IVF treatment. In addition, women may only be eligible for certain fertility drugs if they have a body mass index (BMI) of between 19 and 29.9 - a BMI below 18 is considered underweight, and above 30 is considered obese.
Dr Virginia Pearson, chairman of the NHS Peninsula Health Technology Commissioning Group said to BBC Cornwall: 'There is sound evidence that being significantly over or underweight can reduce fertility. Smoking may reduce fertility in women, while for men, there is a link between smoking and poorer quality of sperm. Smoking is also a risk to the baby, smoking exposes the unborn baby to the toxins in tobacco smoke, and can damage the placenta'.
Arguing against the restrictions, Dr Andy Sant, vice-chair of Devon Local Medical Council and a Plymouth clinician, said: 'Everybody has their own individual circumstances and it may be that often a six-month ban on smoking is unreasonable'.
Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.