Couples with fertility problems are being subjected to a postcode lottery of NHS care, a new report concludes.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) surveyed local health bodies and found “vast” differences between national guidance and the care provided to women with fertility issues.
In England it is recommended that women under 40 should be offered three full cycles of IVF, and those aged 40-42 should be offered one cycle.
But Freedom of Information requests sent to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) revealed that four in five (80%) fund fewer than the three recommend cycles, and 64% only offer one cycle.
And 55 CCGs do not offer any fertility treatment to women aged 40 or over.
Fourteen local health bodies only provide services for women aged 35 and under.
The authors of the report wrote: “The restriction of IVF services to women of relatively young ages runs counter to a general trend in the population towards later motherhood, as more people choose to delay starting a family.”
Meanwhile 96% do not offer IVF treatment to women with a body mass index (BMI) score of over 30.
The majority of clinics also only offer NHS IVF treatment to patients who have no children.
The authors conclude: “IVF provision is subject to enormous variation across England according to decisions made at the CCG level.”
Marta Jansa Perez, director of embryology at Bpas, said: “Access to any form of healthcare should be rooted in clinical evidence.
“Sadly, this report demonstrates that for most patients in need of fertility treatment, this is simply not the case.
“It is deeply unfair that systemic problems with funding have effectively created a fertility pot-luck, with devastating consequences for some patients.”