Caroline Dinenage is the Member of Parliament for Gosport.
Those of us who have children know what joy they can bring, but it’s easy to take the ability to become a parent for granted. All too often, things are not so straight forward and 1 in 6 couples will face problems conceiving.
There are many reasons why people are not able to conceive naturally but, regardless of cause, the news is almost always devastating. For those that find themselves in this situation, IVF treatment is one of the few options for conceiving. The number of people needing IVF is not huge – indeed, just 2% of births in the UK are IVF assisted.
It may be assumed that accessing IVF treatment is a straightforward process. In reality, a desperately unfair postcode lottery dictates who can and cannot obtain this life changing treatment. In spite of clear guidelines from NICE advising access to three rounds of treatment for women up to the age of 39, this is not universally adopted. In fact, most Clinical Commissioning Groups in England and Wales do not meet these criteria.
The geographical discrepancies are stark. Whilst a couple in the North East or East Anglia will find that they have access to IVF in line with or above the NICE guidance, couples in the South East (including my Gosport constituency) will find that they are only able to access one round of treatment. Even so, those lucky enough to live in an area where IVF provision meets or exceeds NICE guidelines then face a raft of other regulations. For example, some CCGs will not provide IVF treatment to a couple where one of the people has a child from another marriage – even if adopted.
This means that for many couples access to IVF can only be gained privately. With three rounds of treatment costing approximately £15,000, it’s beyond the reach of many. Some may have to make a choice between re-mortgaging their homes or giving up on their dream of having a family.
That is why I am backing the campaign led by IVFyes which is calling on the Government to intervene and ensure that access to IVF treatment is standardised. Whether they adopt the guidelines recommended by NICE, where women up to the age of 39 are able to access three rounds of IVF, (one for women aged 40 – 42), or go for a lower & more affordable standard, these criteria must be universal and mandatory across the country. It’s also vital that women should be able to make a choice about the clinic in which they are treated, so they can opt for the one with the best track record of success.
People’s chances of having a child when they can’t conceive naturally should not be down to a geographical lucky dip. Access to a reasonable amount of IVF treatment should be universally available to those who need it.