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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 06:43 GMT 07:43 UK
Fertility success gulf revealed
A baby
Fertility treatment has helped thousands become parents
Fertility treatment success rates vary widely from clinic to clinic, according to the first comprehensive guide to be published on services in the UK.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's publication on 85 clinics shows the average success rate for IVF for women under 35 to be just 27.6%.

But some centres achieve more than twice this rate.

HFEA chairwoman Suzi Leather said the guide aimed to help couples struggling to conceive to make informed choices.

She said many felt "left in the dark" about the treatment choices available to them at what could be a "difficult and emotional" time.

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She said: "With one in seven people having some difficulty conceiving - almost 3.5m people across the UK - there is clearly a need for straightforward, independent information about infertility, its causes and the treatment options.

"Our guide is designed to cut through the jargon and complex science behind hi-tech fertility treatments to explain the causes of infertility, the possible treatments available and then give detailed information to let people make informed choices about the options available for them."

GPs lack information

Ms Leather said two out of five GPs had told the HFEA that they did not have enough information about fertility services.

"With treatment costing many thousands of pounds, it is right that the people paying for the treatment - the individual or the NHS - should get a proper sense of what they are paying for," she said.

Why couples seek IVF treatment

The guide breaks down individual results according to the age of the women treated, showing success rates to be higher for younger women.

And Ms Leather pointed out that clinics specialising in treating younger women would be more likely to achieve high levels of success.

But she added that this alone could not account for the wide differences in success levels between clinics.

She told BBC News it was most likely that some clinics were simply "better" at delivering treatment, with more highly skilled embryologists.

Among the more successful clinics is London's Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre, which has a 59% success rate among women under 35 undergoing IVF using fresh eggs.

The guide reveals the most common age for women receiving IVF treatment to be 35.

Half of infertility (49%) has an identifiably male cause
The number of people having IVF has remained relatively stable since the late 1990s
The success of IVF has risen steadily while the risks have fallen substantially

It also indicates that 8,800 babies (1.5% of all births) are now born every year by IVF, 3,650 every year are born by intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and many more thorough other assisted reproductive technology (ART).

The guide is available as an online, interactive version which allows patients to enter their details and receive tailored information about services and treatments in their area.

Infertility Network UK, a support group, said many people were still unable to access NHS treatment despite guidelines published last year which called for patients to be offered at least one full IVF cycle on the NHS.

Thus it was important that comprehensive information was available to help patients make the right choice for them.

Professor Alison Murdoch, of the British Fertility Society, said: "More and more couples are now coming to fertility clinics and many clinics take on couples who have really quite difficult fertility problems, which may be reflected in individual clinics' performance indicators.

"Infertility is a common medical condition, and the important challenge for the NHS now is to expand the level of fertility treatment available to those unable to have children through natural conception." Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley accused the government of ignoring guidelines to redress the restricted availability of fertility services.

IVF cycles resulting in live births
Clinic NHS/Private Live birth rates (%)
Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre, London Both 58.5
Woking Nuffield Hospital Private 48.1
Centre for Assisted Reproduction, Gateshead Both 43.4
Essex Fertility Centre, Buckhurst Hill Private 39.5
UCH, London Private 38.5
Cromwell IVF and Fertility Centre, Swansea Private 36.4
Leicester Fertility Centre Both 17.5
Cromwell IVF and Fertility Centre, London Private 17.0
Brentwood Fertility Centre, Essex Private 14.9
Esperance Private Hospital, Eastbourne Both 14.0
St Mary's Hospital, Manchester NHS 13.2
Willow Suite, Thames Valley Nuffield Hospital, Slough Private 10.3
Source: HFEA

See how the fertility treatment guide rated clinics

Couples face long waits for IVF
01 Apr 05 |  Health
IVF 'is too stressful for many'
05 Mar 04 |  Health
31 Mar 99 |  Medical notes

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