More women to get IVF as ‘postcode lottery’ set to be abolished

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MORE couples will be able to access free IVF under new NHS reforms designed to make access to healthcare fairer. 

Until now, couples wanting to use IVF on the NHS have been forced to jump through various hoops to access the service, depending on what area of the country they lived in. 

The Government’s long-awaited Women’s Health Strategy has promised to tackle what has been dubbed the “postcode lottery” of fertility treatment. 

The new strategy will “improve transparency” of the provision and availability of IVF.

Enabling parents-to-be to see how their local area performs compared with others, the Government has said. 

However, Marta Jansa Perez, director of Embryology at British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), suggested that the promise to share more data on how different areas offer IVF services will not solve the “postcode lottery” problem. 

“The IVF postcode lottery is not the result of a lack of transparency but a consequence of a systemic problem with the way fertility services are funded in England,” Marta said. 

“No other area of healthcare is restricted to the extent of fertility services, and the extent to which individuals are now expected to self-fund this one area of treatment, including by travelling abroad for care, is not seen in any other area of healthcare.

“Patients are acutely aware of the unfairness of the current system, so it is difficult to see how improving transparency will have any meaningful impact on the postcode lottery”, she explained. 

“There needs to be a standardisation across [all health boards in England] to end harmful discrepancies, and fertility treatment should be commissioned in a way that reflects the importance – and cost-effectiveness – of patients receiving this care,” she added.

As well as pledging to be more transparent, the Government promised to remove all ‘non-clinical’ criteria used to ration IVF.

This includes those who are in a couple and have a child from a previous relationship.

Meanwhile, same-sex couples will also no longer be required to pay for artificial insemination to prove their fertility status before receiving NHS funding. 

They will now be eligible for up to six free cycles of the treatment on the NHS, which is less invasive and cheaper than IVF. 

Marta welcomed to the Government decision to remove discriminatory barriers to IVF for female same-sex couples.

“Fertility services are crucial in supporting the development of different family structures,” she said.

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