Warning of IVF postcode lottery


Fertility clinics across the UK have dramatically varying rates of success according to the fertility watchdog.

The chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) Suzi Leather said that patients and doctors needed to make informed decisions about where to seek treatment.

"With treatment costing many thousands of pounds, it is right that the people paying for the treatment - the individual or the NHS - should get a proper sense of what they are paying for," she said.

Two in five GPs feel they do not have enough information about fertility services, the watchdog has revealed.

The guide offers a detailed survey of success rates and waiting times for every UK fertility clinic, breaking down the results according to the age of the women treated.

Younger women are more likely to become pregnant through IVF, while UK clinics have average success rates of 27.6 per cent. But in some clinics the success rate is double the average, the guide shows.

This variation can be partially explained by some clinics specialising in treating younger women, the HFEA explains, but it concedes that some centres are simply more skilled than others.

As well as differing success rates, the report reveals huge variation in waiting times for couples seeking IVF on the NHS, ranging from a fortnight in some areas to three years in others.

Almost 9,000 IVF babies are born every year, and many more through other forms of assisted conception. One in seven people in the UK has some trouble conceiving, the HFEA reports.

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said that he was concerned by the variations in fertility services available.

Mr Lansley said: "The HFEA guide is helpful to those considering infertility treatments. But there are substantial variations in access to NHS infertility treatment. The Government has ignored guidelines from NICE to redress the restricted the availability of IVF services.

"What is the point of NICE recommendations to abolish the postcode lottery if Government overrides them?"