Scotland's first ever-private fertility clinic has been established by two leading fertility experts, with an aim of helping older women around the ages of 45 with the treatment.
Professor Richard Fleming, a specialist in reproductive medicine and a leading authority in the field of IVF, and Paul Mitchell, the only embryologist in Scotland who is qualified to carry out pre-implantation genetic diagnosis that is the technique of creating babies free from genetic defects that could be carried by their parents, are the two leading experts in the field, who have quit the NHS to run the full time clinic, are now in the process of training replacements. It was also mentioned that a third doctor, gynaecologist Marco Gaudoin, who would continue to remain with the NHS at his post at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, will be dividing his time between the NHS and his business venture.
The clinic that is based in Glasgow, charges £3,000 a time for 'immediate' treatment and also will be available to the women who had been denied IVF by the NHS as they are overweight or already have children. The clinic also hopes that in the near future they would be able to offer screening services so as to help eliminate certain genetic defects from embryos. Many fertility groups had on Saturday, welcomed the development stating that it was about time the women were given a reasonable alternative, when compared to the strict eligibility rules and waiting times, which often go up to five years by the NHS.
Many patient groups, have meanwhile expressed concern over the setting up of the
'Glasgow Centre for Reproductive Medicine' feeling that the NHS would be affected in the long run especially as it would also be losing two of it leading experts. Statistics have shown that 1-7 couples have fertility problems and the funding and rules of the NHS is very strictly regulated. It was explained that the according to NHS the maximum age limit for treatment is between 38-40 which could be determined by the individual health boards. The NHS also states that neither can the largely overweight women nor couples who already have a child living with them, are allowed to have fertility treatment.
The new Centre for Reproductive Medicine has the capacity to treat around 300 couples every year, which could considerably increase the amount of people undergoing assisted conception. The supposed target goal of the centre would be to offer a chance to the couple to screen the genetic defects if any in their children, which could create the so called designer babies. Amid the growing concerns by critics at the loss of expertise from the NHS, Gaudoin on Saturday had insisted that he and his colleagues would be taking a pay cut to set up their business and also suggested that any and all the new research that might be developed at the clinic would also be beneficial to the NHS.
Gaudoin said, "We are offering infertility treatment to couples who do not want to wait on the NHS waiting list and for whom the NHS has denied treatment. We will treat women up to the age of 45, although the chances of getting pregnant decrease with age. There is also a stipulation that you must have a body mass index of less than 30 in order to receive NHS treatment, but there's no evidence to suggest that pregnancy rates are affected by body mass index, so we might go up to a body mass index of 34." That meant, he explained that a woman of average height, 5ft 4in, would mean a weight of 14 stones, which is about four stone over the ideal weight for her height.
Gaudoin further said, "Demand for IVF among older women is increasing because women are delaying starting their families in order to follow their careers. A lot of these women are now rejected for IVF treatment on the grounds of age. But career women can afford to pay £3,000 for a cycle of IVF. This clinic will help couples that have got together after a previous divorce and already have children." Also adding that, "The waiting lists are quite long, but as we are just starting out we are running at zero capacity, so we can take couples straight away. We hope, in time, to establish a pre-implantation genetic diagnosis programme, which would allow us to screen out inherited diseases, for example the breast cancer gene. We would like to have a good research programme and train future staff for the NHS. It's not just about making money, it's about putting something back into the system."
Insisting that his clinic will warn women who are older that they have only a slim chance of conceiving, Gaudoin explained that a 45% chance of becoming pregnant with each IVF cycle for a 25-year-old woman drops to 15% for those aged 40. It was reported that the centre would be the first of its kind 'unconnected' private fertility centre in Scotland. Though quite a few off these kind of clinics exist south of the border, people of Scotland till date have supposedly only 4 NHS centres to undertake treatment, and one assisted conception unit at a private hospital, the Glasgow Nuffield.
It was mentioned that the only clinic, which will consider treating women older than 40 is the Glasgow Nuffield, but they too do not extend the age limit beyond 43. Many couples, almost half the number wishing to undergo treatment ends up paying at the NHS hospitals so as to avoid waiting in queues.
A spokeswoman for the Scotland Patients' Association raising concern over the development said, "I think it is totally unacceptable that doctors can leave the NHS to make big bucks in private practice. The NHS has rules on who it can and can't treat for a reason and I can understand why, for example, obese women are not treated. They should be given the opportunity to try to lose weight. Obesity causes a lot of health problems."
Meanwhile Sheena Young, Scottish coordinator for Infertility Network UK, has welcomed the move, she said, "There's a growing need for fertility centres in Scotland. We always advocate that patients should have choice, and this is giving people greater choice."