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EDITIONS
Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 23:41 GMT 00:41 UK
IVF clinic 'postcode lottery'
ICSI procedure
On average, only one in four "tries" succeed
Success rates for fertility treatments are increasing - but there is wide variation between the least and most successful clinics, according to the latest figures.

Thousands of couples each year undergo in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or other treatments which may help them have a baby.

Most pay out between 1,500 and 2,000 for each treatment cycle.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates clinics across the UK, is concerned that while some are achieving excellent results, couples using some clinics appear to have a much lower chance of success.

Highs and lows

Each cycle of IVF - or a related procedure called ICSI - at University College Hospital in London offered almost a 40% chance of a live birth.


We know that patients and potential patients are anxious to compare the most up-to-date success rates of licensed centres

Suzi Leather, HFEA
However, at the Cromwell IVF and Fertility Centre - just a few miles away - the live birth rate per cycle was just 11%.

The average success rate was approximately 25% - up from 21% last year.

These figures suggest that improvements in techniques now mean that the average IVF couple has as much chance of conceiving as a couple in their late 20s.

While the figures are not billed as a "league table" of clinics, many couples regard it as such.

Frozen sperm
Different clinics have different success rates
And there are fears that some clinics are "fiddling" the figures by only accepting patients with a high chance of success.

There are also suggestions that some clinics are still using too many embryos in a bid to boost their rating - increasing the risk of triplet pregnancies.

The HFEA is planning further checks to find out why some clinics are returning such poor figures.

HFEA chairman Suzi Leather said: "Clinics know that this data will be subject to audit and it would be highly embarrassing for a clinic to be discovered submitting inaccurate results.

"We know that patients and potential patients are anxious to compare the most up-to-date success rates of licensed centres.

"If you are trying to decide which clinic is best for you, you need to ask what their success rate is for couples about your age with problems similar to you."

Reasons for low figure

A spokesman for the clinic at University Hospital Aintree - which had some of the poorest results - said that this was partly due to the high number of elderly patients from deprived backgrounds.

Both these are factors likely to decrease the chances of IVF success.

She added: "Liverpool Women's Hospital NHS Trust assumed management of women's services at University Hospital Aintree in early 2001, and became aware of some service delivery problems which also affected the success rate in the assisted conception unit.

"Since then, the Trust has been in discussion with the HFEA and local commissioners of the service with the objective of achieving an urgent improvement."

Professor Ian Craft, whose London Fertility Centre achieved higher than average success rates in 2000/2001, said that he wanted the present format scrapped.

He said that, instead of an overall figure for births involving women of all ages, each clinic should submit figures for a small group of similarly aged women with similar problems so comparison would be easier.

He said: "That would be a more reliable marker of success than the present system."

Best success rates (%)
Clinic name Number of patients % success rate*
Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology
657
39.9
University College Hospital London
179
39.1
The Winterbourne Hospital
140
31.1
Essex Fertility Centre
328
29.8
Centre for Ass. Reprod. Tyne and Wear
77
29.7
CARE in the Park, Nottingham
846
29.5
Sheffield Fertility Centre
408
27.6
The Lister Hospital, London
1343
27.1
London Fertility Centre
615
26.9
Southmead Hospital
53
26.6

Worst success rates (%)
Clinic name Number of patients % success rate*
University Hospital Aintree
133
10.5
Cromwell Centre, London
419
11
Homerton Hospital, London
160
11.2
The Harley St Fertility Centre
289
11.8
BMI Esperance Private Hospital
181
11.8

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The BBC's Matthew Hill
"Many are put off by the price - both financial and emotional"
See also:

30 Aug 02 | Health
28 Aug 02 | Health
31 Mar 99 | Medical notes
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