Scotland politics

Three IVF cycles a 'no-brainer', charity says

IVF under microscope Image copyright SPL
Image caption New IVF criteria was introduced in Scotland in 2013

A charity is calling for couples in Scotland who need help conceiving to have access to three cycles of IVF instead of two.

In 2013 a working group, set up by the Scottish government, recommended eligible couples should be offered up to three treatments.

But that would only be after health boards had reduced IVF waiting times.

Infertility Network UK said it was a "no-brainer" there should now be three cycles as waiting times have fallen.

New IVF criteria was introduced in July 2013, following recommendations by the National Infertility Working Group.

The changes were designed to standardise fertility treatment across Scotland to prevent a "postcode lottery".

Giving evidence to Holyrood's health committee, the charity's chief executive Susan Seenan said: "The group recommended three cycles and said that once the waiting times were down to below 12 months, at the latest early 2015, they would consider moving to three cycles.

"It just doesn't seem to be happening as fast as we would like it to.

"We just think now that the waiting times are down, that it is a no-brainer - we should move to offering everybody who is eligible three cycles."


IVF criteria in Scotland

  • A guaranteed two full cycles of IVF, as well as unlimited frozen transfers for eligible couples until the woman's 40th birthday
  • Women aged between 40 and 42 will be offered one full cycle of IVF provided they meet all necessary criteria
  • From 31 March, 2015, all eligible couples will start treatment within 12 months of being accepted for IVF treatment
  • Obese women - those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30 - will have to lose weight and have a BMI of 29.9 or less before treatment
  • If either partner smokes, they will need to have stopped before treatment is started

Susan Seenan added: "Everybody in the group was agreed that...three cycles was the best possible way to move forward for patients.

"Why anybody would not want to move forward with that, I have no idea, unless it is finance related."

Under review

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said Scotland was "leading the way" in the provision of NHS IVF treatment, with £12m of investment over the last three years.

She said the number of IVF cycles that couples were entitled to was under review.

The spokeswoman added: "The reconvened expert group has met twice and its review will consider a range of issues, including the number of IVF cycles, to ensure access to IVF treatments remains fair, reliable and timely.

"The views of patients and our stakeholders, including Infertility Network Scotland who are part of the Infertility Group, will be instrumental to this process, along with data collection and modelling."

Fertility treatment is currently available to those under 40, and is not offered to women who are obese.

In addition, couples need to have been in a stable relationship for two years and neither partner can smoke for three months before treatment begins.

Both partners also need to be methadone-free for a year before IVF starts.

Women aged between 40 and 42 are eligible for one cycle of fertility treatment if they have never previously undergone the procedure.

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