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Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
UK fertility services lag behind Europe
Sperm samples
UK fertility clinics do not measure up to others in Europe
Britons have poor access to fertility treatments compared to many European countries - despite a history of test tube baby pioneering.

A report, commissioned by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), revealed that approximately one in 80 births in the UK results from fertility treatment.

In Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, approximately one in 50 are produced this way.

When access to fertility treatments was ranked by country, the UK fared poorly, with 583 treatments per million population. Only Switzerland and Portugal were placed lower.

Professor Ian Craft, a fertility expert from London, described the situation in the UK as a scandal.

I find it amazing that Britain, which has always been such a leader in this sort of technology, cannot give people access to it

Professor Ian Craft, London Fertility Clinic

He said: "The provision of services are very poor in the UK in relation to other people in Europe.

"I find it amazing that Britain, which has always been such a leader in this sort of technology, cannot give people access to it."

Postcode prescribing

In the UK, many health authorities refuse to fund fertility treatments, regardless of the cause of infertility. This has led to "postcode prescribing", in which the cost of IVF depends on where you live.

The survey looked at success rates and the number of multiple births across Europe, compiling data from almost 600 clinics and more than 200,000 treatment cycles.

Overall, a cycle of treatment has just over a one in five chance on average of leading to a live birth.

Professor Ian Craft
Professor Ian Craft is dismayed at the standard of care in the UK

IVF and ICSI, a treatment in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg, have exactly the same chance of being successful.

The UK was close to the top of the league on one measure of success rates - although the exact figures provoked controversy over their accuracy and were withheld from the conference.

The number of multiple births in the UK was low - only just over a quarter of pregnancies resulted in more than one baby, whereas nearly half the successful fertility treatments in Spain resulted in a multiple delivery.

Comparing the figures released by ESHRE with those in the US is difficult, because of differences in the way they are calculated, but broadly, the US has higher "success" rates in terms of live births, but also a percentage of multiple births which is higher than the European average.

This is because US fertility clinics are more likely to implant larger numbers of embryos, both at the request of the patient, and because clinics depend on published success rates to attract custom.

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28 Feb 00 | Health
Sperm boost may aid fertility
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