Women across England and Wales required to be in a ‘stable relationship’ to receive NHS-funded IVF

Did you know that 24 NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) require women seeking IVF to prove they are in a ‘stable’ relationship in order to access fertility treatments?

It’s true – out of 135 CCGs across England and Wales, two dozen enforce these outdated criteria.

Shockingly, the so-called ‘postcode lottery’ rears its ugly head again, with women having to prove that they have been in a stable relationship for at least three years. The CCGs say that this is to ‘ensure the welfare of the child,’ but experts say that this is just one more hoop for people in a desperate situation to jump through.

Every CCG has its own rules about NHS-funded IVF treatment, which understandably leaves patients’ confused and upset

According to the Kernow CCG, a woman must have been in a ‘financially interdependent’ relationship to receive treatment, but Devon offers single women IVF on the NHS. There is no consistency across the country.

While the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) makes broad recommendations about who should receive NHS-funded IVF treatment in England and Wales, it is the CCGs who make the ultimate decision. They come up with differing criteria, such as the ‘stable relationship’ requirement.

Almost half of English CCGs (48%) refuse to offer NHS-funded IVF to single women

While they all refuse treatment to obese parents, those who smoke, and those with any addictions, they have inconsistent rules on all other criteria.

The upper age limit and the number of rounds all vary, as does the possible restriction if one partner has a child from a previous relationship, no matter how old the child.

This has led some women to lie about their relationships to qualify for fertility treatments

Joanita Namugenyi, an IVF counsellor, says that some women tell her they plan to lie, because ‘they know they won’t get it otherwise.’

Kate, 39, from East London, has been trying to conceive with a close friend, but a lawyer advised them that they would probably be turned down for NHS funding

She chose to spend £20,000 on private treatments rather than hearing ‘no’ from her local CCG. “It’s not a gamble I could take.”

Professor Tim Child worked with NICE to help them write their guidelines

He is highly critical of the CCG rules, saying that they are “applying their own, made-up criteria’ to help them ‘ration’ services. It causes confusion and upset for patients.”

Professor Child isn’t the only one with harsh criticism of the NHS policies. Professor Geeta Nargund, who works as the lead reproductive medicine at St George’s Hospital, says: “the postcode lottery for IVF treatment urgently needs to be addressed.”

Do you feel like a victim of the postcode lottery? Have you been denied IVF treatment in your borough for reasons or criteria that other boroughs don’t enforce? We want to know about your experiences at mystory@ivfbabble.com 

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