Page last updated at 18:54 GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Couples 'to have two IVF cycles'

Couples in Wales will be able to have two cycles of IVF treatment from April 2010

Women in Wales will have access to two cycles of IVF fertility treatment free on the NHS from April next year, the health minister has announced.

Since 2005, women in Wales have had access to one cycle of IVF treatment.

Edwina Hart said she was "keen to increase the number of IVF treatment cycles... within available resources".

In June, the chair of the assembly's health committee said people in Wales should be able to have three IVF cycles of treatment on the NHS, as in England.

In her statement, Ms Hart said: "I recognise that this is an extremely emotive issue.

"In Wales, our aim has been to have a fair, consistent policy for accessing this treatment.

"We ended the postcode lottery to accessing this service in 2005 when we began offering one free cycle of IVF treatment to women who meet clinical criteria set out by NICE and the All Wales Assisted Fertility Working Group.

'Better chances'

"I have had lots of representations on this issue and I am pleased that I am in a position to go some way towards increasing the opportunities for women to try to have children within the available resources."

Peter Bowen Simpkins, medical director of the London Women's Clinic, which has branches in Cardiff and Swansea as well as London, said the decision was good news for women undergoing IVF.

He said when the guidelines by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) were drawn up, the clinic's IVF fertility treatment success rate was 30%-35% for women under 35. He said it now stood at almost 50%.

He said: "You can't be absolutely certain you can get pregnant in two cycles but, whatever, it's very good news for women in Wales.

"Plainly the more cycles that are on offer, the better chances you have for everybody of getting pregnant.

"Our only plea is that people should come and see us earlier as success rates start dropping after 35."

Embryo mix-up

In June, Darren Millar AM, chair of the Welsh assembly's health committee, said Wales should follow the advice of a national health guidance group and offer three cycles.

His comment followed an embryo mix-up which denied a Bridgend couple the chance of another baby.

Debra and Paul, from Bridgend, received damages of about £25,000 after the error in December 2007.

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