One of the first obstacles in getting pregnant via infertility treatment is a financial one. Fertility treatment isn’t cheap in the private sector, costing up to £5000 per cycle of IVF. Some couples will qualify for NHS funding, but this varies according to the area in the UK that you live – hence the term ‘postcode lottery’ – and also your own personal circumstances. So, if you’re considering fertility treatment, how likely are you to qualify for NHS support?
All specialist treatment on the NHS, begins with a referral from your GP, and fertility treatment is no exception. Your GP will be able to advise you about funding policies in your area, but in order to refer you, you will need to meet certain criteria set by The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
NICE Guidelines for Infertility Treatment
The NICE guideline states that up to three cycles of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) should be available to:
- women aged 23 – 39
- those who have an identifiable cause of infertility such as an absence of sperm, or blocked fallopian tubes
- those who have had more than three years of fertility problems.
Having met these criteria, the final decision will lie with your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), who will have further criteria that you will need to meet, this may include your age (some CCG’s will only fund women under 35), any previous fertility treatment cycles, your BMI (a range of 19-30 is required), whether or not you smoke and and whether or not you already have children.
To find which CCG will be assessing you, there is a location tool on the NHS website to help you find the relevant contact details.
If you are eligible for NHS treatment, bear in mind that there will be a waiting list. Many NHS clinics in the UK now have an ’18 week policy’, meaning that you should have to wait no more than 18 weeks from your GP’s referral to the beginning of your fertility treatment.
Also bear in mind that whilst treatment may be free, you’ll still have to pay prescription charges for any drugs that you need (unless of course you’re already exempt for another reason).