Home Estate Planning Londoners far less likely to access IVF on the NHS, research finds

Londoners far less likely to access IVF on the NHS, research finds

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A new analysis of fertility treatment data shows that fertility patients in London are significantly less likely to have IVF procedures funded by the NHS, compared to the rest of the UK.

The analysis, carried out by London-based fertility company Béa Fertility, looked at new data released publicly by the HFEA last month. It found that just 25 per cent of the IVF treatment cycles that took place in London between 2009 and 2021 were NHS-funded. 

This is 34 per cent lower than the national average number of NHS-funded IVF cycles since 2009, which stands at 38 per cent. The remaining 75 per cent of IVF procedures that took place in London between 2009 and 2021 were privately funded by patients.

The findings come after a report published last month found that London is the most expensive city in the UK for IVF, with a single cycle costing an average £6,150.

According to Béa Fertility’s analysis, fertility patients are more than one and a half times (160 per cent) more likely to have IVF procedures funded by the NHS if they live in the North East of England, compared to London.

HFEA data shows that between 2009 and 2021:

In the North East of England 61 per cent of IVF treatment cycles were NHS-funded

In the East of England and the West Midlands, 44 per cent of IVF cycles were NHS-funded 

In Scotland, 51 per cent of IVF cycles were NHS-funded 

In the North West, as many as 53 per cent of IVF treatment cycles were paid for by the NHS between 2009 and 2021

Clinic nation or regionPercentage NHS-funded fresh and frozen IVF cyclesPercentage privately funded fresh and frozen IVF cycles London25%75%East Midlands33%67%South East34%66%Wales37%63%South West40%60%Yorkshire and the Humber40%60%West Midlands44%56%East of England44%56%Northern Ireland47%53%Scotland51%49%North West53%47%North East61%39%Average38%62%

NHS-funded IVF in decline

Over 400,000 IVF cycles have taken place in the UK since 2009. Béa Fertility’s analysis has found that, in this time, the percentage of cycles receiving NHS funding has dropped significantly, from 40 per cent in 2009 to 26 per cent in 2021.

Meanwhile, the number of patients seeking IVF support in the UK has increased. According to this analysis, 57,525 fresh and frozen IVF cycles took place via the NHS and private clinics in 2009. This number grew 40 per cent by 2021, when 80,365 IVF procedures took place.

Millie*, a teacher from Stanmore who spent £20,000 on multiple rounds of IVF in London, spoke about her experience. She said:  “My husband and I started trying for a baby when I was 35. We had to fight tooth and nail to access one free round of IVF on the NHS. And we didn’t even get as far as transfer before it failed. 

“With the financial support of my parents, we went for private treatment. We could never have had our baby if it wasn’t for them. The high prices have been a source of immense frustration, sadness and strain for us. But we are the lucky ones who had support, so we were able to try again and again until we got our miracle. There are many people who aren’t so fortunate.

“I’m desperate for a sibling for my daughter. But I cannot go down the IVF route again. The physical and emotional toll is too much, and we cannot afford to go private again. I also want to be present with my daughter, not rushing back and forth to the fertility clinic, “yo-yoing” up and down after each treatment, pumped full of hormones, and covered in bruises all the time from the injections. So we are currently using a new at-home fertility treatment called Béa Fertility. The experience is totally different to IVF. It’s more affordable and less invasive, and we’re going to keep trying until the end of this year.”

Qualifying for NHS-funded IVF

IVF stands for in vitro fertilisation. It is a popular fertility treatment technique which involves fertilising an egg with sperm in a laboratory, before implanting the embryo in a woman’s womb to develop. 

With a fresh embryo transfer, a fertilised embryo is implanted into the uterus within three to five days of fertilisation. With a frozen embryo transfer, embryos are frozen and implantation can be done weeks, months, or even years after fertilisation.

To qualify for NHS-funded IVF in the UK, women must meet a range of criteria outlined by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), including being under the age of 40 and having been trying to get pregnant through unprotected intercourse for at least two years. 

The final decision on who can access NHS-funded IVF is decided by local integrated care boards (ICBs). Many ICBs will only fund one cycle.

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