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Women on fertility treatment waiting list have eligibility extended for a year


Welcome: Colm Gildernew

Welcome: Colm Gildernew

Welcome: Colm Gildernew

The resumption of fertility services in Northern Ireland has been welcomed.

Eligibility has also been extended by a year in recognition of disruption to the services caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Minister Robin Swann said this temporary measure will reduce the pressure for women who would otherwise breach the upper age limit before receiving treatment.

"Although fertility treatments are considered to be routine elective services and the focus is on re-starting urgent services first, I have made it clear that re-starting fertility services is a priority for me and as such, preparations have been ongoing to enable this to happen as soon as possible," he said.

"As treatment will re-start on a phased basis, it will take some time before service levels can be restored to full pre-Covid-19 provision.

"To mitigate some of the delay, the Regional Fertility Clinic (RFC) will be opening extended hours to help provide appointments to as many patients as safely as possible.

"In recognition of the distress caused to women who are currently waiting for treatment at the RFC, the eligibility for anyone currently on the waiting list will be extended by a year.

"This will reduce the pressure for women who would otherwise breach the upper age limit before receiving treatment. This temporary extension to the age limit will only apply to women currently on the waiting list."

Health committee chairman Colm Gildernew welcomed the move.

"I am pleased to see in the answer given to my questions by the Minister of Health that the Belfast Trust are reopening services at the Regional Fertility Centre from 10 August onwards," the Sinn Fein man said.

"This will be welcome news for the many women and couples who have been devastated by the closure of services and had an anxious wait until services resumed.

"I also welcome the news that those already on the waiting list will have an extra year to start treatment without exceeding the age limit for services.

"I know this will go some way to reassure those seeking additional time and support.

"However, it will be essential that services are extending to increase the number of appointments necessary to deal with the backlog of appointments."

SDLP MLA Colin McGrath added: "The cancellation of health services at the height of the pandemic was the right course of action, but understandably caused significant distress to many across the North.

"It is difficult to think of a more distressing situation than those people desperate to start a family and waiting for fertility treatment.

"It is very welcome news that this invaluable service will resume on a phased basis.

"This will provide huge relief to those waiting to commence treatment.

"It is also welcome that the service hours have been extended, to accommodate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible," the South Down MLA added.

Alliance health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw said it had been an issue raised with her constantly throughout the pandemic lockdown.

"I therefore warmly welcome the announcement eligibility for those on the waiting list will be extended by a year, and that opening hours will be extended to provide as many appointments safely as possible," the South Belfast MLA said.

"This move will reduce distress which had been widespread.

"I would urge a swift resumption of appointments to enable this phased return to result in full service as soon as possible."

Belfast Telegraph