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Last Updated: Friday, 1 April, 2005, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
Couples face long waits for IVF
A watchdog has said three IVF cycles should be provided
Ten per cent of primary care trusts in England have waiting times of over two years for IVF treatment, a survey has found.

From Friday, infertile couples will be eligible for one free cycle of fertility treatment on the NHS.

But the survey of 70% of PCTs showed even though the majority said they would be able to offer one cycle of IVF, many couples would face waits.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Infertility carried out the analysis.

This situation needs to be addressed without delay
Clare Brown, National Infertility Awareness Campaign

It found that less than a third of the PCTs reported waiting times of under a year, with the rest waiting more than a year.

It also found 20 PCTs which had been providing more than one cycle of IVF treatment were reducing their provision and a further 18 did not confirm that they could maintain current funding levels.

Eight more had placed age restrictions on couples seeking more than one cycle of IVF treatment.

The availability of another fertility treatment, ICSI, where sperm is injected directly into the egg, has also been reduced in some areas, the survey found.

'Making progress'

Last February, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended that up to three full cycles of IVF should be available on the NHS to all couples meeting set clinical criteria.

Health Secretary John Reid said PCTs should be able to provide at least one full cycle of IVF by this month.

But the Department of Health's has said those PCTs which can provide more than one cycle should continue to do so.

The survey found 22% of the PCTs who responded were already meeting this requirement, and a further 58% said they had taken the necessary steps to achieve it.

However, 16% either said they were still assessing the steps they need to take to meet this deadline or did not comment on their progress.

The committee said that it was impossible to know what progress the 30% who had not responded to the survey had made.

Kevin Barron, chair of the APPGI, said: "The results of this survey show that PCTs have been making progress towards meeting today's deadline but that we are still not achieving the fair and equal access to infertility services on the NHS that couples deserve.

"Preventing patients from accessing the treatment they require is both unfair and adds extra stress at an already traumatic time in their lives".

Clare Brown, chair of the National Infertility Awareness Campaign, said: "We are concerned that the positive effects of meeting today's April deadline will be offset by a greater use of eligibility criteria to restrict access.

"This situation needs to be addressed without delay if we are to ensure that couples have access to the standard of care set out in the guideline."

NHS to offer one free IVF cycle
25 Feb 04 |  Health

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