Accessing fertility treatment on the NHS

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Treatment availability

Once your GP has completed your fertility investigations they will decide whether there is a need for further assessment, whether you should continue to try to conceive naturally or if you are eligible for treatment funded by the NHS. The NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines have recommendations on different treatment types. You could be eligible for 6 cycles of IUI (intrauterine insemination) or 3 cycles of IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) funded by the NHS. However, local CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) decide what is funded in your area. 

Eligibility

In order to be referred for treatment, an assessment must be made by your GP or fertility specialist which specifies certain criteria set out by the CCG. The criteria may include:

  • Age 
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Length of time trying to conceive
  • Previous children
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Sterilisation

Age

The NICE guidelines state that women under the age of 40 years old should be eligible for 3 cycles of IVF, however some CCGs have stricter criteria. Oxfordshire CCG for example has a cut off where the female must be 34 years old at the time of referral. 

BMI

Couples are recommended to have a BMI between 19 and 30 by nearly all of the CCGs in England. If your BMI is not within the guidelines, your GP should advise you on how to lose weight to meet the requirements. 

Time to conceive

If you’ve been trying to conceive for over 1 year and have an infertility diagnosis, you could be referred for treatment. In cases of unexplained infertility, your GP would advise you to continue trying naturally for 2 years before being referred for treatment. Some CCGs have requirements of trying for 3 years before being eligible for treatment, like North Norfolk CCG.

Previous children

While the NICE guidelines state that having children, either from a current or previous relationship, should not be a deciding factor when determining eligibility for funding for IVF, the CCGs in England have various policies on having existing children. Berkshire CCG states that treatment can only be funded if the couple do not have any children, either together or from a previous relationship. Bolton CCG on the other hand state that one of the partners may have a child from a previous relationship and still be eligible for funding. 

Lifestyle factors

The NICE guidelines explain that women who are smoking should be informed that it is likely to reduce their fertility. Even passive smoking can affect their chances of conceiving. Many CCGs will deny funding if one or both partners are smokers. Some CCGs even stipulate the length of time you have quit smoking before being referred for treatment. 

Sterilisation

If either partner has undergone an elective sterilisation, you may not be eligible for treatment – even if it has been reversed. 

What are you entitled to?

Once it’s established if you are eligible for treatment funded by the NHS, there may be limitations on how many cycles you are entitled to. BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) conducted a report on the provision of fertility services and concluded that only 17% of all CCGs fund the full 3 cycles of IVF as recommended by the NICE guidelines, and 3 CCGs don’t offer IVF IVF on the NHS at all. It’s important to discuss eligibility with your GP, so you know what you may have access to, as there can be large financial implications if you would need to fund treatment yourself. 

Local Guides

We are building up our local guides to NHS care:

More resources on NHS funding: 

  • Fertility Network UK, Fertility Fairness Audit
  • BPAS, IVF postcode lottery: an examination of CCG policy for the provision of fertility services

Any general advice given by our care team or posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Béa Fertility, the trading name for StepOne Fertility Ltd. makes no representations or warranties and expressly disclaims any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app.