Ask the Expert: How easy is it to get IVF treatment and will we have to pay?
Q: WE'VE been trying for a baby for two years and I'm not pregnant. How easy will it be for me to get IVF, and will we have to pay for it?
A: Aileen Feeney, chief executive of Fertility Network UK, says: "An IVF cycle costs from £6,000 to £10,000 or more, depending on the type of procedure and whether you have any 'add-on' fertility treatments.
"Unfortunately, the majority (59 per cent) of people in the UK who need IVF will have to pay for their medical treatment. Where you live, your personal circumstances, medical situation and age are all factors determining whether you and your partner will be one of the almost two-thirds of people facing an IVF bill.
"The national recommendation is for women under 40 to have three full IVF cycles, and women aged between 40-42 to have one full IVF cycle, because this has been determined to be the most clinically and cost-effective treatment. However, this guidance isn't mandatory and, outside Scotland, NHS fertility services are rationed unfairly. Fertility Network's scream4IVF campaign aims to end this unjust situation.
"Scotland offers the IVF Gold Standard for accessing NHS fertility treatment: that is, three full IVF cycles for clinically eligible women under the age of 40, plus one full IVF cycle for women aged between 40-42, and provision if either you or your husband has a child from a previous relationship.
"Wales provides two full IVF cycles for clinically eligible women under the age of 40, plus one full IVF cycle for women aged between 40-42, and allows access to treatment if either partner has a child from a previous relationship.
"Northern Ireland provides just one partial IVF cycle for women under 40 and allows access to treatment if either partner has a child from a previous relationship.
"Access to NHS fertility treatment is worst in England and depends on your GP's postcode. Only three of the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) offer the IVF Gold Standard; the remainder ration access by reducing or removing the number of IVF cycles offered, or by introducing additional access criteria.
"Depending on where you live in England, you may be denied access to NHS IVF because: you're over 35, your husband's body mass index is deemed unacceptable, your husband is too old, either you or your husband has a child from a previous relationship, or you've not been trying to conceive for long enough (two/three years).
"If you fulfil all the additional access criteria, then it's a postcode lottery regarding the number of rounds of treatment you'll be offered. Seven areas in England don't offer any NHS IVF at all; two-thirds offer only one full or partial cycle; just 11% offer three full cycles, and a further one in 10 CCGs is consulting on cutting or removing NHS fertility services."