Minister announces changes to NHS eligibility criteria
Couples across Scotland will soon have expanded access to IVF services on the NHS following changes to eligibility criteria announced by the Minister for Public Health, Aileen Campbell.
The Scottish Government confirmed it would accept key recommendations from the National Infertility Group report published today.
Couples with children in the home, but where one partner does not have a biological child, will become eligible for IVF access.
The number of available cycles on the NHS will also be increased from two to three.
Work will now begin to develop an sustainable implementation plan, including working with boards in setting out timescales for the introduction of the criteria changes.
Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said the changes would make IVF access in Scotland the fairest and most generous across the UK.
During a visit today to NHS Lothian's Edinburgh Fertility Reproductive Endocrine Centre, Ms Campbell said:
"For couples who are struggling to conceive it can be a very difficult time. IVF treatment can provide an opportunity to help them have that longed-for baby.
"We want to make sure that access to treatment on the NHS is as fair as it possibly can be - giving more people the opportunity to conceive. Over the last four years we have invested around £18 million to reduce IVF waiting times and improve the outcomes for patients undergoing this treatment.
"And I'm delighted to be able to announce today that we will begin work to change the eligibility criteria for IVF and expand access for more families across Scotland.
"Scotland already leads the way on IVF access and rights in UK, and these changes will ensure Scotland's provision is a fair and generous as possible.
"I want to thank the members of the National Infertility Group for their work to look at this issue."
The Scottish Government will accept all recommendations in the report from the National Infertility Group, except the recommendation to remove eligibility for couples where the women is aged between 40 and 42. The existing criteria in this area will remain.
Professor Adam Balen, Chair of the British Fertility Society said: "We welcome this new announcement about increased funding for 3 cycles of IVF for all couples in Scotland even when one already has children from a previous relationship. This is great news for people in Scotland planning a family who have fertility problems.
"Infertility affects one in seven couples, and treatment should be available on the NHS. Infertility can have a devastating effect on people's lives, causing distress, depression, and the breakdown of relationships.
"IVF treatment is cost-effective and enables childless couples the chance to have much wanted families.
"There is now a gulf between IVF funding in Scotland and England and the British Fertility Society is disappointed that there is still a postcode lottery for IVF treatment across England with many CCGs offering fewer cycles and going against the current NICE guidance on this. These current health inequalities people face are unacceptable and the BFS urgently calls for all UK commissioners and healthcare providers to follow NICE Fertility Guidelines."
Gwenda Burns, Branch Coordinator of Infertility Network Scotland said: "We wholeheartedly welcome the news that the number of available IVF cycles on the NHS will be increased from two to three, and that couples with children in the home, but where one partner does not have biological child, will become eligible for IVF access.
"In accepting the recommendations of the National Infertility Group and recognising the devastating impact of fertility problems, The Scottish Government has continued to improve fertility services and create a fair and equitable service for fertility patients in Scotland. We look forward to the timely implementation of these changes."
Susan Seenan, co-chair of Fertility Fairness also welcomed the announcement, saying: "Infertility is a disease and access to treatment should be equitable and based on medical need, rather than postcode or arbitrary criteria.
"These changes from the Scottish government will ensure Scotland continues to lead the way in the equitable provision of fertility treatment; sadly, the situation here stands in stark contrast to the rest of the UK, in particular in England. There, NICE recommendations to provide 3 cycles of fertility treatment for eligible women are widely ignored and we have witnessed creeping disinvestment in services in recent months."
The National Infertility Group report is published on the Scottish Government website: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/06/9960