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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
More than 3m babies born from IVF
By Caroline Ryan
BBC News, Prague

Baby
Treatment is less accessible in the UK
Fertility treatment has resulted in more than three million births worldwide since Louise Brown was born in the UK 28 years ago, experts report.

But European rankings for 2003 show the UK came 12th out of 15 in terms of the number of cycles it provided.

Only Austria, Croatia and Macedonia provided fewer cycles.

The report authors told a European fertility conference this was due to poor funding, too few clinics and difficulty accessing services.

Providing less than one cycle per couple, as the UK does, is grossly insufficient
Professor Anders Nyboe Andersen

The data on IVF across Europe was collated by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

It showed the UK gives 633 cycles of IVF treatment per million people in the population, compared to the highest in Europe - 2,031 in Denmark.

Over half of treatments in 2003 across Europe used ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection), mainly used to treat male infertility.

Long waits

Professor Anders Nyboe Andersen, who wrote the report, said the UK could do much more to help couples access fertility care.

"It's not just about cost. In Denmark, you only have to wait three months before you can start IVF. And there is good clinic coverage, geographically.

"Providing less than one cycle per couple, as the UK does, is grossly insufficient. And people have to wait for at least a year."

Ten thousand babies have been born in the UK after IVF treatment.

It is estimated that one child in every primary school year in the UK was conceived through IVF.

Data on assisted reproduction worldwide was also presented at the Prague conference.

Fifty-two countries submitted data for 2002, covering around two thirds of IVF provided in that year.

Extrapolating from the data they had, the researchers calculated 200,000 babies were born using ART in 2002 - a vast increase on the 30,000 in 1989.

Data on the number of IVF cycles provided showed that Israel came top, providing 3,263 per million people, while Latin American countries typically provided fewer than 100 per million.

Inequalities

Dr Jacques de Mouzon, a member of the team which compiled the study, said: "There is a real inequality between different countries, and this is due to money.

"Some countries provide free cycles of IVF while, in others, couples cannot have ART unless they pay for it, for example through medical insurance."

Suzi Leather, chair of the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, said: "I want to see proper access to treatment for patients.

"I would like to see the government follow through on its stated desire to fully implement full National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence guidelines."

Clare Brown, chief executive of Infertility Network UK, said: "It is totally unacceptable that most other European countries have better service provision for infertility patients than the UK, where IVF was pioneered.

"Infertility treatment has for too long been seen as a low priority, failing couples who face the devastating impact this illness has on a daily basis.

"We hope the UK government feels a sense of shame at these figures, and takes immediate action to ensure that the NICE guideline is fully implemented as quickly as possible.

DoH referred back to their line from the Ledger story - ie most PCTs provide one cycle and they are listening to patients' views.

IVF TREATMENT (2003)
Country Cycles/million people
Denmark 2,031
Belgium 1,682
Finland 1,503
Iceland 1,434
Sweden 1,322
Slovenia 1,288
Germany 1,242
Norway 1,172
Netherlands 1,093
France 1,009
Switzerland 785
UK 633
Croatia 611
Austria 602
Macedonia 186
Source: ESHRE (European IVF Monitoring)




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