Thirteen areas of England have restricted or completely halted IVF treatment since the start of the year for women struggling to conceive, with a further eight consulting on taking similar steps.
Data provided by Fertility Network UK showed the scale of local NHS cutbacks in a bid to save money, defying national guidelines and prompting warnings of a postcode lottery for couples trying to have children.
The figures also show that over the past four years the number of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England offering three full cycles of IVF has fallen by 46%, from 50 in 2013 to 27 this year.
#NHS group Nice recommends that women aged under 40 should be offered three cycles if they have been trying to conceive for two years, which means cost-cutting CCGs are defying advice set out by the government and the NHS’s own advisers.
Prof Simon Fishel, who was part of a team that pioneered IVF in the UK, said his main concern was the inequality of cuts. Fishel said: “What is the point of having Nice guidelines if they are not adhered to?”
He added: “If the country decides it will not fund IVF then fine, that is a decision that affects everyone … but what I cannot abide is the local variation for something like this, which doesn’t reflect local populations.”
“You have to treat citizens equally and this is a deliberate inequality and obfuscation and allows some areas to say they are offering IVF but when it comes down to the detail, only a tiny fraction of those who need it have access to it.”
NHS providers in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are consulting on restricting fertility treatment in future to women aged 30-35. This would make them the first in the UK to limit services to such a narrow age range.