The world’s first IVF baby has called for an end to the NHS fertility care ‘postcode lottery’.
Louise Brown, born in 1978, said it must be “devastating” that people are being told they cannot access funded IVF care. This is a new poll for the charity Progress Educational Trust (PET), which has found that 67% of UK adults support the provision of NHS-funded fertility treatment to people who are infertile and want to conceive.
Commenting on the poll, Ms Brown said: “It is time to end the postcode lottery for fertility treatment. For people who don’t have a lot of money and desperately want a child, being told, ‘We won’t fund your IVF treatment’ must be devastating.”
National guidelines in England recommended that women under 40 be offered three full cycles of IVF and those aged 40-42 be offered one cycle. But earlier analysis suggests that women are offered different amounts of fertility care depending on where they live. In some localities expectant parents are offered three fully funded cycles – worth thousands of pounds – but in other areas people are forced to pay for the treatment out of pocket.
“The commissioning of fertility services needs to catch up with public opinion,” added Sarah Norcross, director of PET. “These survey results send a strong message to the government, NHS England and commissioning bodies to act. The postcode lottery approach is unfair and unjustifiable and we hope that the government’s next women’s health strategy will address this issue.
The new survey of 2,000 UK adults, conducted by Ipsos, also found that 52% of men would consider sperm donation. Ms Norcross added: “Steps must be taken to ensure that the willingness of men to donate is not wasted. »
Clare Ettinghausen, from the Human Fertilization & Embryology Authority (HFEA), said: “Our latest data shows that while the use of donor eggs and sperm increased from 2019 to 2020, the number of donor registrations increased. decreased during this period. It is therefore reassuring to see the PET results which suggest that more than half of the men surveyed would consider donating. »
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care added: ‘We recognize that this is an important issue for anyone struggling to have children, and we are clear that patients should have fair and equal access to NHS fertility treatment where and when they need it.
“The government is committed to improving access to fertility services and this year we will publish England’s first-ever women’s health strategy, which will address gender-based health disparities and ensure the system provides access equal to effective care and support for women across the country. ”
A spokesperson for NHS England said: “Ultimately these are legal decisions for individual CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups), who are under a duty to balance the various competing demands on the NHS locally, while living within the budget that Parliament has allocated.”
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