IVF postcode lottery warning
Less than a third of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in the UK provide the recommended number of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) cycles to patients receiving fertility treatment on the NHS, ministers have warned.
The findings are detailed in an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Infertility report released today.
Gareth Johnson, MP for Dartford and Chair of the APPG, said on compiling the report: "What I was not prepared for was the existence of so many conditions that are placed upon infertile couples even in PCT areas that offer IVF treatment."
Infertility awareness campaign and patient groups are concerned that infertility treatment provision will vary even more if services are commissioned by GP consortia under the proviso of the Health and Social Care Bill.
The report states that some PCTs put restrictions on IVF provision that are contrary to the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) 2004 guidelines, such as specifying that patients, including in some cases male partners with no fertility issues, are non-smokers.
Clare Lewis-Jones, Chair of the National Infertility Awareness Campaign and Chief Executive of Infertility Network UK said that the failure of PCTs to fund fertility treatment despite the 2004 guidance is "totally unacceptable".
However, Mr Tony Rutherford, Chairman of the British Fertility Society was unsurprised by the findings, saying that they "bear witness to lack of funding and prominence that infertility is given by our healthcare system".
Rutherford's sentiments were endorsed by Anne Milton, MP and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health who said in her foreword to the report that PCTs should more fully appreciate the extent to which infertility can lead to "family breakdown", and recognise IVF as "a legitimate clinical need".
GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011
By Sarah Guy