NHS IVF Treatment – a postcode lottery

Fertility Fairness report identifies unfairness in the provision of NHS IVF Treatment

Fertility Fairness, formerly the National Infertility Awareness Campaign has disclosed the response to Freedom of Information Act requests concerning the cost of IVF treatment provided by the NHS.

NICE recommends that women under 40 requiring IVF should be provided with 3 cycles of treatment by the NHS, which would give rise to good prospects of achieving a viable pregnancy. In practice, of the 209 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) in England who control health spending, only 38 meet this target.

Aside from the general drive to cut expenditure in the NHS (despite protected and indeed increased budgets being made available by the last and the present government), the variation in availability of treatment is blamed upon a variation in the cost of the treatment as charged to the CCG. Apparently in some areas hospitals are providing the service for as little as £1,500 per cycle, whereas in others the figure is as high as £6,000 per cycle. A call for a consistent and universal tariff for the cost of an IVF cycle within the NHS has been made by campaigners for those suffering infertility. If such a policy were implemented it would simply adopt a similar approach to that already used for hip replacement and other routine surgery, ensuring equal access to treatment across all areas of England.

Whilst it is recognised that there may be some variation in the extent of the drug regime required on a case by case basis, this would in no way account for the discrepancy in the charges raised by different providers under the current system.

Some may question the provision of IVF under the NHS, viewing it as a “lifestyle” choice. Anyone working with those unable to have children through no fault of their own (and in extreme cases such as negligent sperm destruction, due to the negligent acts of others) are only too aware of the distress caused by childlessness, in some cases causing anxiety, depression, an inability to work and consequent health problems which in turn place a financial burden on the state which could have been avoided for a relatively small investment in fertility treatment at the outset. It is the immeasurable human cost that is more difficult to account for and in many ways the more compelling reason for a proper funding system for IVF on the NHS.

If you have experienced issues arising from IVF treatment, sperm destruction or fertility treatment please see our webpage or contact Chris Thorne, Partner in the clinical negligence team specialising in these matters at chris.thorne@clarkewillmott.com