IVF postcode lottery torment

THE private sorrow of couples who cannot have children rarely attracts the attention of Ministers. It is too complex, too sensitive and too unfashionable an issue for them to devote their time and attention to.

However, the alarming disparity in access to IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) treatment is exactly the type of issue which should be considered by Ministers, because the women whose opportunities are hampered by an unfair system do not have great wealth or power or a high public profile.

It is appalling that there are vastly different policies at primary care trusts in Yorkshire, and across the country, despite a pledge by Ministers, as long ago as 2004, to allow couples up to three cycles of treatment.

It is inevitable that some women will need more than one course of IVF, yet, while those in North-East Lincolnshire can have up to three cycles, only two are offered in Doncaster, Barnsley, Rotherham and the East Riding, and just one in Sheffield and West Yorkshire. Ministers have let down these women and their partners while pursuing all manner of other gimmicks which they believe will play better with the electorate.

It leaves women who want to have children, and who know there is a diminishing amount of time in which they have a fair chance of successful IVF treatment, facing having to pay thousands of pounds in order to go private or to go without. It is a terrible situation and surely one that marks a failure in Government to understand the anxiety this will cause for so

many people.

Politicians love to assert the importance of family life, but having children should not be reliant upon the depth of one's pockets or the location of one's home. It has created the absurd situation where one couple, from Harrogate, who paid nearly 5,000 for IVF at Leeds General Infirmary, were treated alongside patients who received free NHS care because of where they lived.

This is one of those occasions when Ministers have an important role to play in the intimacies of family life. Having told primary care trusts to provide a consistent level

of IVF treatment, they must ensure their words are heeded.