A survey has found that only 9 out of 151 Health Trusts provide the required level of IVF treatment to patients.
According to statistics provided by the government, 94 per cent of primary care trusts in England are not in a position to assist the patients with the necessary IVF cycles in keeping with the 2004 national guidelines. According to the guideline, at least 3 cycles of IVF should be provided to infertile couples, where the age of the woman is between 23 and 39 years.
The survey also revealed that most NHS trusts have increased the parameters for selection for free IVF, making it so strict and impossible for most to meet the selection criteria. For instance, patients who have children from present or previous relationships are denied free IVF treatment; those who smoke do not fall under the selection category.
It is estimated that one out of six couples in the UK is infertile. Nearly 45000 IVF cycles are estimated to be carried out annually. Taking these figures into account, it is evident that 30,000 IVFs are done privately with an expenditure of about £2,000 per cycle.
Susan Seenan, of the patient support charity Infertility Network UK, said: "Thirty years after the inception of IVF treatment, in the country that pioneered IVF, and four years after the NICE guideline, it is a complete disgrace that only nine PCTs are offering three free cycles. We are also disappointed that some PCTs are still offering no cycles at all, and that most are adding social criteria that make it difficult and unfair for patients to access the treatment they need. There is a real need for a standard set of eligibility criteria that operate nationwide."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "We recognize that there are local variations in the provision of IVF and that this does cause distress to many childless couples who feel that they are not getting the treatment they need. NICE published their guide recommendations that trusts provide up to three cycles of IVF in February 2004. But NICE and the Department of Health realised that this could not be immediately implanted and so trusts were encouraged to use this as a goal they move towards. The first step is for all PCTs to offer at least one cycle of IVF and the vast majority do so, with almost a third already offering more than one cycle."