More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to end unfair access to IVF after research revealed women are being denied treatment due to postcode lotteries.
The research, by the charity Fertility Fairness, uncovered that women over the age of 35 are being denied NHS treatment in some areas, but not others. This is despite the fact the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines say women under 40 should be offered three cycles of IVF if they have not conceived after two years.
HuffPost UK has also learned that even among women who are accepted, waiting times can vary. Targets for waiting times are set by local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), meaning there is no national guideline.
[Read More: The Best And Worst Areas Of UK For IVF Availability ]
The petition is calling for couples around the UK to have equal access to treatment and for all CGCs to follow the NICE guidelines.
Siobhan, a 32-year-old project manager from east London, previously told HuffPost UK about the agonising wait she experienced on an NHS waiting list for IVF.
She and her partner tried to conceive for a year before visiting their GP, but then had another three-month wait after this appointment being referred for tests. The results provided a “frustrating diagnosis of ‘unexplained infertility’”, and the couple were put on an IVF waiting list in January 2018. They started IVF at the end of December 2018, a full 11 months later.
“In the time that we have been trying to have a baby, so many of our friends have announced pregnancies, and had their babies, and I constantly feel like I am at a standstill, with time just passing me by,” Siobhan said.
“Over the past two-and-a-half years, there’s not been a day where I haven’t thought about infertility and having a baby, and it’s draining. You try so hard to remain positive and not give up, but ultimately it does change you as a person.
“I’m definitely not as happy or relaxed as I was before we began seeking treatment, and don’t ever feel like the anxiety I have from this will ever go away.”
It is considered that petitions reflect the public’s desire for a debate in parliament if they receive more than 100,000 signatures. The IVF petition has received 102,000 views, and counting.
MP Steve McCabe MP, whose Access to Fertility Services bill will have
its second reading at Westminster later this month, said he’s thrilled so many people backed the campaign.
“Infertility is a medical condition and it is completely unfair that access to IVF treatment depends on where you live,” he said.
“We can’t have a situation where local NHS groups are allowed to ignore NICE guidelines and ration treatment to save money. It is simply unfair and we wouldn’t stand for it if we were talking about other medical conditions such as cancer or diabetes.
“It is clear that the public are behind our campaign so now we need the government to step up to the plate and take action to end this disgraceful postcode lottery.”
Commenting on the issue a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “Since 1991, birth rates from IVF treatment in the UK have increased by over 85%.
“All decisions on IVF treatment should be made by doctors based on a patient’s individual clinical needs and in line with NICE guidelines. While provision of NHS infertility treatment is decided by local Clinical Commissioning Groups, we are clear that blanket restrictions on treatment are unacceptable.”