That’s a complicated question. Who and what people can access on The NHS depends on where they live. It’s known in the fertility community as the UK’s IVF Post Code Lottery.
What does the NHS fund?
The UK is split into four publicly funded health systems. How each of these systems decide to fund IVF varies widely.
- NHS Scotland – legislation is being introduced requiring all health boards to offer 3 cycles for all women under 40
- NHS Wales Health – women under 40 are entitled to 2 cycles.
- Social Care in Northern Ireland – women under 40 can access 1 cycle.
- NHS England – it’s a whole lot more complicated with 211 different groups making different decisions.
Why is England different?
In 2013 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) were introduced. CCGs are clinically-led statutory NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of health care services for their local area. There are 211 CCGs in England and they vary in offering 0 cycles to offering 3 cycles. In addition to that their eligibility requirements differ. Whether you can access treatment can de dependant on your:
- If either partner has a child from a previous relationship
- If you have had previous treatment
Why does this matter?
The science has proven that the likelihood of having a live birth as a result of IVF increases if you have more than one try. This is known as the cumulative cycle approach and is something that has been endorsed by the National Institute for Health & Care Excellence.
Will this improve in the future?
Unfortunately, it’s getting worse. Since 2014 many CCGs have ended or reduced their IVF treatment entitlement.
Decommissioned all IVF treatment, except in isolated, complicated medical cases
Mid-Essex, North East Essex, South Norfolk
CCGs consulting ending their funding of IVF
Basildon, Brentwood Bedfordshire.
CCGs that reduced their treatment funding to 1 cycle.
North East Lincolnshire, Somerset, Cambridgeshite, Peterborough,
What can you do?
For the past 20 years the charity Fertility Fairness has been campaigning for people to have comprehensive and equal access to a full range of appropriate NHS investigations and treatments for infertility.
They are encouraging people to raise awareness of this issue and bring an end to the post code lottery. They have a whole raft of things you can do here