Campaigners to present 100,000-strong petition calling for end to NHS 'postcode lottery' for IVF treatment

Campaigners will present a petition to prompt a Parliamentary debate over NHS IVF treatment. Picture: Thinkstock/PA.
Campaigners will present a petition to prompt a Parliamentary debate over NHS IVF treatment. Picture: Thinkstock/PA.
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Campaigners will present a petition with more than 100,000 signatures to Prime Minister Theresa May calling for an end to the “postcode lottery” of NHS fertility treatment.

The Fertility Network is urging the Government to create a fairer system so that couples across the country can get equal access to IVF on the health service.

It said that infertility disease affects about one in six couples in the UK, yet many NHS services ration it unfairly. The Fertility Network is presenting its 102,000-strong #Scream4IVF petition to Mrs May at Downing Street today.

The charity and online magazine IVF babble launched the #Scream4IVF campaign, with partners Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness advertising agency, in September and within two months the online petition had gathered more than 100,000 signatures.

Read more: Call for greater funding for IVF treatments
The Fertility Network’s chief executive, Aileen Feeney, said this showed the public support behind ending the postcode lottery.

She added: “Gathering 100,000 signatures, in such a short space of time, demonstrates the overwhelming public support to end the unethical and unfair IVF postcode lottery and create an equitable system for access to NHS fertility services in the UK.

“These 100,000 signatures represent the screams of pain and frustration from not being able to have a child without medical help - and not having your screams heard.” Petitions which reach 100,000 signatures are considered for a debate in Parliament.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance recommends women under 40-years-old should be offered three cycles of IVF and one cycle for some women aged 40-42.

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But the Fertility Network said this is not mandatory and only about 13 per cent of England’s 195 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) offered the three NHS-funded cycles.

It said nine out of 10 CCGs in England do not allow couples to access NHS IVF if one person has a child from a previous relationship while others set their own age limits, including men having to be under 55 or women older than 25.

The #Scream4IVF campaign has gathered cross-party support from politicians, including Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable and Labour’s Steve McCabe.

The Birmingham Selly Oak MP, whose Access to Fertility Services private members’ bill will have its second reading at Westminster later this month, said he was thrilled the petition had received so much support.

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A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said birth rates from IVF treatment in the UK have increased by more than 85 per cent since 1991.

He added: “All decisions on IVF treatment should be made by doctors based on a patient’s individual clinical needs and in line with Nice guidelines.

“While provision of NHS infertility treatment is decided by local clinical commissioning groups, we are clear that blanket restrictions on treatment are unacceptable.”