Third of women with right to IVF rejected by GPs who don't know enough about fertility treatment
03:55 GMT, 28 August 2012
One out of three women with right to In Vitro Fertilisation on the NHS are denied the treatment
One in three women are being refused IVF on the NHS even though they have the right to treatment, a report has found.
Health trusts are routinely denying treatment for women despite the fact they are eligible under official guidelines from health watchdog NICE.
Even if women are referred for IVF, many are forced to wait more than two years for it to start during which time the chance of success dwindles as their bodies age.
A report based on a survey of 456 couples also reveals an alarming lack of faith in family doctors over fertility treatment.
Nearly half said their GP did not have sufficient knowledge and many were told to go away and keep trying without even being referred to a clinic.
Recently a major study ranked Britain near the bottom of a European league table on spending for fertility treatment with even Serbia, Montenegro and Slovakia paying more to help childless couples.
As many as one in six couples are thought to suffer from infertility which is defined as being unable to conceive naturally after trying for three years.
But this report by the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC) shows that 38 per cent are being wrongly denied treatment to help them have children by their NHS trust.
Susan Seenan, of the charity Infertility Network UK, said: ‘It’s shocking and blatantly wrong. Primary care trusts are just trying to ration treatment.
‘The problem is that NICE only provides guidance so PCTs are free to set their own, stricter policies. Some say that IVF is a lifestyle choice but no one would chose to be infertile.
‘We know the NHS has limited resources but all couples want is to be treated fairly.’
Trial and error: In order to receive IVF on the NHS the couple must have been trying to conceive naturally for at least three years and be between 23 and 39
Guidelines from NICE, the National
Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, say couples should be
offered three rounds or ‘cycles’ of IVF paid for by the Health Service.
They must be aged between 23 and 39, however, and have been trying
naturally for at least three years.But many PCTs are trying to save money by ignoring these guidelines and replacing them with their own far stricter policies to try to save money.
These include narrowing the age range to 30 to 35 or not paying for couples if they have children from previous relationships.
Expensive: Private IVF treatments can cost over 10,000
The report also found that 27 per cent
of couples waited longer than a year for the IVF to begin after first
being referred to a specialist, including 12 per cent who waited two
In fact, 45 per cent of couples who responded ended up paying for the treatment privately as the waiting lists were too long.
IVF normally costs between 3,000 and 4,000 but nearly a quarter of those who went private paid more than 10,000 for the treatment, according to the survey.
It also found that 51 per cent of couples believed their GP to be either ‘unsympathetic’ or ‘lacking sufficient knowledge’.
One couple were told by their family doctor that their infertility was ‘in their head’.
And a woman whose partner already had children from a previous relationship was asked by her GP ‘why would you want any more’
Another couple who had been trying for a baby for seven years were told to come back again in another two if they still hadn’t been successful.
Clare Lewis-Jones, chairman of NIAC and chief executive of Infertility Network UK, said: ‘Infertility treatment has for too long been seen as a low priority, failing the one in six couples who live with the devastating impact this illness has on their lives.
‘The stress of IVF is unavoidable. What is avoidable, however, is the exacerbation of these effects through reductions to services and long waiting times.’
Last year a report by MPs found that nearly three-quarters of PCTs were refusing to provide the recommended three cycles of treatment with several not offering any IVF at all.