Page last updated at 08:24 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

Lesbian couple win fertility bid

Julie McMullan and Caroline Harris
Julie McMullan and Caroline Harris are now entitled to IVF treatment

A lesbian couple have won the right to NHS treatment to help them have a baby after threatening to sue health chiefs.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) had denied Caroline Harris and Julie McMullan IVF treatment as they were not classified as an infertile couple.

The health board said it had reviewed its position in light of regulations, including the Equality Act.

The women, who were suing the health board for treatment costs, said they had not yet been offered a settlement.

The couple were claiming 20,000 after unsuccessful private fertility treatment, which followed them being refused NHS help.

They had taken their case to the Court of Session in Edinburgh and a judicial review of the decision was due to take place at a later date.

The health board at first stood by its refusal, but it has now agreed to offer the couple treatment at an assisted conception unit.

A spokesman for the board said: "As a couple, these two individuals are biologically incapable of conceiving and the board, therefore, initially took the view that the couple did not meet the necessary criteria to receive NHS-funded treatment.

The board's treatment acceptance criteria were applied to this couple in the same way they would be applied to any couple
NHS GGC spokesman

"The board has, however, reconsidered its position in light of other regulations, including the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Act 2008 and Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) regulations 2007, and has now decided to offer treatment to this couple."

The couple's case stated that in January 2007 they went to their GP and were told they would have to pay for private treatment.

Ms Harris tried six intrauterine insemination treatments at a Nuffield Hospital without success and IVF treatment in February last year, which was also unsuccessful.

They went back to their GP who referred them to the local assisted conception unit.

In a letter, a consultant told them last July they did "not fit the criteria" for IVF and "unfortunately as they are a same sex couple they would not be eligible for NHS funded treatment".

Eligibility rules

Ms Harris and Ms McMullan claimed the rules governing access to IVF treatment make no reference to only heterosexual couples getting treatment.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission took up their case, only to be told that Ms Harris was not infertile, nor was she part of a couple where her partner was infertile.

The NHS GGC spokesman added: "There is national guidance on eligibility for NHS-funded assisted conception, including age, body mass index and an inability to conceive after two years during which there has been sexual intercourse and no use of contraception.

"The board's treatment acceptance criteria were applied to this couple in the same way they would be applied to any couple referred to the assisted conception unit for NHS-funded infertility treatment."

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