How Woman Can Get Free IVF Treatments in the UK

IVF was introduced to the UK in 1991, and since that time, it has grown in both popularity and its rate of success among women. More than 250,000 children have been born with the help of IVF in that timeframe, giving many women and their partners hope in their pursuit of having a child. However, recent news sweeping the healthcare community has put a damper on the access to free in vitro fertilisation treatment throughout England.

Shifts in Qualifying Criteria

IVF has been offered under the umbrella of the NHS for several years, although the availability of the promising treatment has been variable for much of the time. Currently, local Clinical Commissioning Groups, or CCGs, are responsible for designing and implementing the qualification criteria for certain medical procedures available to the public, including in vitro fertilisation. Based on one’s postcode, IVF could be available at no cost for women up to a certain age. In other areas, IVF is either not available for free, or it is only on the table for women who meet specific qualifying requirements – many of which are unrealistic.

The shifts to the qualification requirements that must be met in order to receive in vitro fertilisation at no cost boil down to budget constraints placed on the NHS and trickled down to local CCGs. Over the last year, the obligation of CCGs to reduce outgoing expenses based on annual budget limitations determined by parliament have threatened women struggling with fertility who may otherwise be a good candidate for IVF. Instead of offering three full cycles of treatment to women up to the age of 40, certain CCGs proposed to reduce the upper limit age to 35 because the success rate for pregnancy diminishes after that age. Although these limitations look solid on paper, they fail to align with the guidelines set forth by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as it relates to IVF.

What it Means for Hopeful Parents

Despite the success rate of in vitro fertilisation among women up to age 40, local CCGs are proposing swift changes specifically impacting women over the age of 35 who want to conceive a child. This reduction in free IVF treatments in some areas of England would lead to the number of women receiving fertility help by way of IVF to be cut in half. These changes on the local level have the potential to devastate hopeful parents.

Struggling with fertility comes with a heavy dose of emotional upset, and the ability to receive no-cost treatment through IVF is a life saver for many. Taking away this option adds to the frustration of women and their partners, not to mention places the financial burden of in vitro fertilisation firmly on the woman’s shoulders. Through a private facility, IVF treatment can cost £5,000 or more. Because it often takes more than a single cycle of treatment for a successful pregnancy, many women may opt not to undergo IVF at all.

Since in vitro fertilisation has been available through the NHS, NICE has put forth guidance on who should be eligible to receive the treatment. Based on current statistics and success rates, women up to age 42 have a probability of conceiving a child through IVF, although it may take up to three full cycles of treatment to do so. The CCGs proposals go against this guidance head on, citing a lower success rate in women between the ages of 35 and 40 and therefore, sunk costs. Fortunately, based on public outcry and input for the wider medical community, several CCGs have pulled back on their proposed restrictions for the time being.

Although the state of free IVF treatment is constantly in flux, many areas still offer at least one cycle for those who meet qualification criteria, based on their postcode. Women who are interested in IVF as an option for infertility treatment can see what is available through their nearest CCG thanks to the Fertility Network UK and its detailed information about NHS funding for the treatment as it stands now.

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