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The IVF postcode lottery…

Health and Mental Health

The IVF postcode lottery…

These areas have the most and least IVF support for heterosexual and same-sex couples.

The NHS released an updated report earlier this month showing funding decisions for IVF cycles, revealing huge disparities in access to NHS-funded IVF treatment in each area of England. As part of the new report, experts at Postpartum Plan have analysed 3 years’ worth of Government and HFEA data to reveal where in the UK has the most and least support for couples seeking IVF.

South East Sussex Named As Best Place in the UK to have IVF

The study analyses categories such as the quality and quantity of IVF treatment available, the amount of NHS-funded treatments and the number of private clinics in each area, to create an index revealing the best and worst places in the UK to undergo IVF treatment.

According to the new index, South East’s Sussex is the region offering the best IVF support to heterosexual couples which includes 3 full cycles and a maximum of 5 years of egg freezing, up to the age of 40. Couples with children are eligible as long as one of them doesn’t already have a child. It’s also an area with the least amount of already funded NHS cycles, meaning you’re more likely to Fastrack.

Same-sex couples and disparity in NHS-funding decisions 

The study highlights a wider discrimination case around IVF, with many NHS-funded programmes requiring same-sex couples to have had 6-12 cycles of self-funded artificial insemination before they will be considered for any fertility support. Artificial insemination, or IUI, at a private clinic, usually costs around £350-£1,600 per cycle, which means female same-sex couples could pay up to £25,000 before accessing NHS-funded IVF support. However, the same can’t be said for heterosexual couples, with many areas stating guaranteed eligibility with no previous NHS cycles.

Increase in patients opting for private pathways

When looking at the data, Postpartum Plan finds many same-sex and single patients are now opting for the private pathway, with IVF in female same-sex relationships, increasing by a third (33%), and the amount of single patients increasing by 44% in the last 3 years alone. Postpartum Plan also finds 65% of NHS-funded IVF treatment doesn’t include a full cycle – A ‘full cycle’ is a term used to define one episode of ovarian stimulation and the transfer of any resultant fresh and frozen embryos. A full cycle ends when either every available viable embryo has been transferred or one results in a pregnancy.

NHS Funding decisions are restrictive 

According to the data, 61% will not fund IVF if either partner has any living children from the current or any previous relationships, regardless of their age or whether the child resides with them. This may also include any adopted children within current or previous relationships. The data also uncovers the decline in external donation support with sperm and egg donors decreasing by 15% in the last 3 years and the number of surrogates has declined by 7%.

With this data in mind, Postpartum Plan looks at the best and worst areas for those looking at IVF support.

The study reveals Sussex, South Yorkshire and Kent and Medway are all in the top 3 for providing the best support for heterosexual couples going through IVF, with each of these regions offering the highest number of full cycles, egg freezing and the lowest number of patients already gone through NHS-funding in those areas.

  1. Sussex

  2. South Yorkshire

  3. Kent and Medway

  4. North East London

  5. Gloucestershire

According to the data, the amount of same-sex couples opting for the private IVF pathway has increased by 33% since 2019. This could be due to the distinct lack of NHS-funded accessibility for same-sex couples looking to undertake IVF, and our analysis uncovers which regions same-sex female couples will have to pay £25,000 before being eligible for NHS funding. According to the data Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, all require same-sex female couples to have undergone at least 12 cycles of self-funded artificial insemination before even qualifying for NHS support.  The worst area

  1. Cambridge and Peterborough

  2. Cornwall and the isles of Scilly

  3. Hampshire and the Isle of Wight

  4. Gloucestershire

  5. Suffolk and North East Essex

With NHS IVF funding declining by 16% nationally in the last 3 years, and more people opting to go down the privatised healthcare route to debunk long waiting times and other restrictions, Postpartum Plan says there needs to be a shift in the way we look at fertility.

Meg Murray Jones from Postpartum Plan:

IVF can be an extremely challenging process with patients needing additional physical and emotional support throughout. Our current NHS IVF criteria are restrictive, especially for same-sex couples, and we were shocked to see how each region differed based on the support and funding available. More work needs to be done to provide a duty of care to people wanting to go on their fertility journey, and offer ongoing support throughout and after the process”.

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