MPs group slams NHS IVF variations
More than 70% of NHS trusts are ignoring guidance to offer infertile couples three chances at IVF and some have stopped funding treatment altogether, according to a damning report from a cross-party group of MPs.
The study found many primary care trusts (PCTs) have placed strict restrictions on who is eligible for IVF - resulting in a postcode lottery of care.
Most PCTs have put limits on the age at which they will treat women - with Bury PCT only allowing women to be treated between the ages of 39 and 40. This means younger women can wait years for NHS treatment despite the fact fertility declines with age.
In Hampshire and Milton Keynes, women are only eligible for treatment between the ages of 30 and 34 while only those aged 30 to 35 will be offered IVF in Bournemouth and Buckinghamshire. Five PCTs - Warrington, West Sussex, Stockport, North Yorkshire and York, and North Staffordshire - offer no IVF at all.
In Wales, many health trusts only allow women IVF between the ages of 38.5 and 40.
In 2004, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) said couples should be given up to three cycles of IVF on the NHS, where the woman is aged 23 to 39. But despite repeated Government reminders on the issue, the guidelines have never been fully implemented across the NHS.
A new report from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Infertility shows 73% of NHS trusts are failing to follow the guidance.
Freedom of Information results for 152 PCTs found many also had strict criteria on age, weight, smoking status of the couple and restrictions on IVF if one partner already had a child, regardless of whether they had contact with them. But PCTs had no rules on alcohol and caffeine consumption - factors known to play a role in fertility.
The report said the criteria revealed that the Nice guidelines had been "taken out of context by PCTs and used to place arbitrary restrictions on the provision of IVF".
Gareth Johnson, Conservative MP for Dartford and chairman of the APPG on Infertility, said: "I believe that all PCTs should be offering three cycles of treatment as recommended by the Nice guidelines."