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Fertility conference 2001 Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
UK trailing on IVF access
Babies
The NHS does not pay for many IVF treatments
Britons receive fewer fertility treatments per head of population than just about any other European country, according to statistics.

Only a tiny proportion of such procedures are paid for by the NHS, with the result that they are prohibitively expensive for many.

In the UK in 1998, there were just 595 cycles of treatment carried out per million people.

This lags behind the European average of 780, and trailing hopelessly in the wake of Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark.

The last three each performed more than 1,500 cycles per million people.

The statistics were unveiled at a meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Lausanne, on Tuesday.

Soaring figures

Across Europe, the number of fertility treatments carried out is rising rapidly - the latest figures show a 14% rise to 232,225 cycles.

Italy and Russia are among those which have experienced explosive growth in their fertility clinics.

The UK is still number three when it comes to the sheer number of treatment cycles offered to patients.

Last year it delivered some 35,261 cycles - compared to just over 46,000 in both France and Germany, but the UKs large population compared to other European states renders that statistic less impressive.

The statistics show that ICSI - the injection of a single sperm into the egg - is fast overtaking IVF as the most-used method of fertility treatment.

This is despite continuing concerns over the long-term safety of the method.

Successful cycles

Remarkably, the relative availability of fertility treatments in Scandinavian countries means that the overall proportion of births produced by them is huge.

In Iceland, just under 4% of all babies have been created with the assisted reproduction techniques, compared to 1.14% in the UK.

Iceland also tops the "league table" for the proportion of cycles which end in a pregnancy. In 1998, 44.6% were successful in this way, while in the UK only just over a quarter resulted in pregnancy.

Dr Karl Nygren, from the Sofia Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, who helped analyse the data from the 18 countries involved, said that the fall in the number of twins and triplets across Europe was a major success.

He said: "It is very good news that the number of multiple births is decreasing.

"Health professionals are pleased about this, and patients should be too."

See also:

23 May 01 | Health
07 Dec 00 | Health
22 Jun 01 | Health
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