September 2, 2008

Parenthood Rests on Home Address

According to charity Infertility Network UK, North Staffordshire PCT is one of just three health authorities across the country which has suspended funding for IVF.

The charity says 92 PCTs fund one cycle of treatment, 32 fund two and nine fund three cycles.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends women aged between 23 and 39 receive three free cycles of fertility treatment on the NHS.

Government guidance states PCTs should provide a minimum of one free cycle, with a view to increasing this to three.

But Infertility Network UK says PCTs are following their own rules, meaning access to treatment depends on a patient's postcode.

Last week, the East of England Strategic Health Authority said it would provide the three cycles at its 14 trusts in its region.

But the North Yorkshire and York and North Lincolnshire PCTs do not provide any treatment.

Charity representative Susan Seenan said they had been working with the Department of Health to get PCTs to follow NICE guidance and the Minister of State for Health had recently written to all PCTs stressing this message.

She added: "In some cases, couples can find themselves receiving no NHS treatment while a neighbouring PCT would fund their treatment.

"We would urge North Staffordshire to take account of NICE recommendations and allow couples to access NHS fertility treatment."

MP Paul Farrelly has launched a campaign to help couples in Newcastle who have been denied IVF treatment and wants those who have experienced problems getting funding to contact him.

He said: "Other parts of Britain have witnessed a sharp expansion in IVF in line with extra NHS funding and the boom in assisted conceptions is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

"It is clear that access to free infertility treatment across the country is currently a postcode lottery.

"Different areas impose different age restrictions on who is eligible, and some stipulate that women must not smoke or be overweight.

"Here in North Staffordshire, however, the situation is even worse, because currently no-one is receiving the funding."

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