Nursery nurse, 24, sues NHS for right to fertility treatment after being told she’s too young for IVF
Andrea Heywood must wait until she's 30 to qualify for a free round of treatmentHer lawyer says Portsmouth City PCT's decision is 'unreasonable, unlawful and unfair'Postcode lottery means trusts can pick their own IVF criteria and don't have to follow national guidelines

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UPDATED:

09:04 GMT, 4 June 2012

A 24-year-old nursery nurse who cannot conceive naturally is suing her local NHS trust which says she is too young to have IVF.

Andrea Heywood, from Portsmouth, was left unable to have children after suffering from appendicitis as a child.

She and her estate agent husband Aaron, 25, have been turned down for fertility treatment three times by NHS Portsmouth and have been told they must wait six years before they are eligible for a free round worth 5,000.

Andrea and Aaron Heywood, from Portsmouth, pictured on their wedding day. She was left unable to have children after suffering from appendicitis as a child

Andrea and Aaron Heywood, from Portsmouth, pictured on their wedding day. She was left unable to have children after suffering from appendicitis as a child

She is now claiming age discrimination after being denied the treatment because of her age.

Lawyers for the couple told Portsmouth City PCT in a letter that the decision was 'unreasonable, unlawful, unjustified and unfair'.

Mrs Heywood, who has been trying to conceive with her husband for the last three years, told the Independent: 'It is bad enough not to be able to have
children naturally, but this is like someone is saying 'no you can't
have children – you have got to wait.

'I feel guilty for my husband because I
am the one with the problem. It is very hard for me because I feel like
I have let him down.'

According to guidelines issued by the Government watchdog the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) women should be offered three cycles of IVF from the age of 23 to 39 if they cannot conceive naturally, and they must have been infertile for at least three years.

However, these guidelines do not have
to be followed and NHS trusts can impose their own restrictions and
criteria if they want too creating a postcode lottery for couples.

St James' Hospital, Portsmouth. n Portsmouth, a woman must be aged 30-34 to qualify for an NHS funded cycle of treatment

St James' Hospital, Portsmouth. n Portsmouth, a woman must be aged 30-34 to qualify for an NHS funded cycle of treatment

In Portsmouth, a woman must be aged 30-34 to qualify for an NHS funded cycle of treatment.

Mrs Heywood, who suffered scarring on her fallopian tubes when her appendix burst when she was six, said waiting until 2018 for treatment would make it less likely it would prove successful.

She said the whole situation was stressful and was putting a strain on their marriage and work.

If they went private it would cost the couple approximately 5,000 per cycle of treatment – money which the couple can't afford.

Her lawyer Louisa Ghevaert, of solicitors Porter Dodson, said the decision by the PCT discriminated against the couple on grounds of age.

She told the newspaper there was no reason why younger women should not benefit from the treatment.

NICE are currently reviewing its guidelines and it is considering getting rid of the lower age limit, saying infertility should be treated sooner rather than later as the chances of success reduce with age.

The recommendations are in draft form
and will go through a period of consultation until July. The final
guidance still won't be mandatory and individual NHS trusts can decide not
to implement it.

NHS Portsmouth
declined to comment.

More than 46,000 women had IVF in 2010 and about 40 per cent were NHS patients. Nearly 8,000 were aged between 40 and 42 and would have been treated in the private sector, where clinics set age limits higher than the NHS.

NICE decided to review its guidance to make sure it fully complied with the Equality Act, passed in 2010.

Infertility is thought to affect one in six heterosexual couples in the UK.

Women receiving fertility treatment are 35-years-old on average and have been trying to conceive for more than 4 years.

Last year, an investigation found single women were routinely being given IVF on the NHS while elsewhere married couples were being turned down.