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Women Are Facing A 'Postcode Lottery' For IVF Treatment

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Women in the UK are facing a ‘postcode lottery’ when it comes to accessing IVF treatment on the NHS, new figures obtained by campaign group Fertility Fairness show.

Almost 90 percent of clinical commissioning groups (the NHS bodies responsible for commissioning health care for their local area) are failing to offer women the recommended three cycles of IVF treatment. Out of the 208 of those CCGs in the UK, only 24 of them are currently meeting the national guidelines; seven of them offer no IVF treatment at all.

Currently, NICE guidelines recommend that ‘if you are a woman aged under 40 you should be offered three full cycles of IVF if you have been trying to get pregnant through regularly unprotected sexual intercourse for a total of two years or you are using artificial insemination to conceive and you have not become pregnant after 12 cycles. However, if your tests show that there appears to be no chance of you conceiving naturally and this is the only treatment that is likely to help, you should be referred straightaway for IVF.’

These recommendations, however, are not binding; instead, it is up to each individual CCG to decide upon how many IVF cycles to offer.

According to the new statistics, which Fertility Fairness obtained through Freedom of Information requests, the number of CCGs meeting those guidelines has reduced, dropping from 24 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2017.

Bury CCG, Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale CCG, Oldham CCG and Tameside and Glossop CCG are branded the ‘golden’ CCGs, as they follow the three cycle guidance and also do not restrict IVF access to couples with children from previous relationships.

Sarah Norcross from Fertility Fairness told the BBC that it was time to ‘grasp this nettle and to actually take action.’

‘We’ve heard lots of comforting words from [the government] over the years; that they’re going to do something, that this is a disgrace and supportive statements, but talk is cheap and now they have to do something.'

In last week’s Grazia, Emily Phillips (author of new infertility comedy TRYING) wrote about embarking on her one allotted round of NHS-funded IVF, highlighting the arbitrary nature of this postcode lottery.

‘As Charlie and I join hopeful couples at Homerton University Hospital’s mandatory information evening, we are told that, as residents of Enfield – unlike other East London areas that feed into their clinic – we are only eligible for one NHS-funded round of IVF,’ she explained in her piece, which you can read in full here.

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