In order to qualify for In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) or Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) treatment on the NHS, patients have to meet the requirements of their local provider.
These requirements or eligibility criteria, often differ depending on where you live In England and Wales although criteria is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), some local providers add their own requirements and some are more restrictive than others. Common restrictions are listed below.
NIAC has been campaigning for the standardisation of local eligibility criteria for many years. The Department of Health asked I N UK to produce a tool for commissioners in England aimed at standardising the eligibility criteria. Until such a time as this is implemented across the board, NIAC will continue to raise awareness of unfair local practices.
Age criteria varies but NICE recommends using the age bracket 23-39 years of age. NIAC’s 2011 patient survey identified age as the biggest perceived barrier to treatment.
BMI and Smoking
People with a high or low BMI and those who smoke are often refused access to treatment again in contrast to the NICE Guideline which states that patients should be encouraged to remain a healthy weight and to undergo smoking cessation where applicable.
One of the most contentious issues surrounding the guideline is the issue of previous children. In 2004, the then Secretary of State for Health, John Reid, announced that he would be ‘asking the NHS to give local priority to couples who do not have any children living with them.’ Since then, a number of local providers in England have stretched this statement to include children from a previous relationship. So even in instances where one partner’s child is not living with the couple, the other, infertile partner is still sometimes denied treatment. In Scotland where centrally set criteria which is currently under review, no one can access NHS treatment if they have a child living with them in the home, but in Northern Ireland treatment is offered to couples who have a child.