Two separate online petitions are calling for a change to the way IVF services are provided under the UK's NHS. Janine Macallister, 27, of Newport, Shropshire and Richard Mackenzie, 29, from Whitney, Oxfordshire have each started a petition calling for their local PCTs to adhere to national guidelines on IVF funding thereby ending the so-called 'postcode lottery' of provision.
The Macallisters have been denied NHS-provided fertility treatment on the grounds that Jason Macallister has children from a previous relationship. Mrs Macallister said that she feels 'disgusted, angry and upset' when she was told that she couldn't have IVF treatment, and that if she found another partner, she would be treated 'straight away'.
The couple, who married three years ago, have been trying to have a baby for many years and say that their failed attempts to access fertility treatment have put enormous strain on their marriage. Mrs Macallister, who suffers from polycystic ovaries, says that in denying her treatment, her PCT regards she and her husband as one person: 'I am the one who has the problem, not my husband, and I am the one in need of treatment', she added.
Under national guidelines issued by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in 2004, women between the ages of 23 and 39 who have an identified cause for their infertility which has existed for three years, should have access to three cycles of IVF treatment on the NHS. However, the guidelines are not legally binding and allow individual trusts to make their own decisions on provision of treatment.
Telford and Wrekin PCT, which covers the Macallisters, has said that couples with existing children from current or previous relationships will not be allowed access to treatment. But this week a spokesman from the PCT has said that 'the policy regarding fertility treatment is currently under review' and that Mrs Macallister should be reassured that the provision policy will be discussed 'at our next priorities committee as soon as possible'. Susan Seenan, of the charity Infertility Network UK, said that it had heard from an increasing number of women who find themselves in a similar situation. 'These women are shocked and upset to hear they are being penalised because their partner had children in a previous relationship', she said, adding: 'We think it is terribly unfair, especially when there will be other PCTs which will have totally different criteria.'
In a similar case, Richard Mackenzie has called for the resignation of Oxfordshire PCT chief executive Andrea Young over the discriminatory distribution of IVF in his region. Mr Mackenzie and his partner, 26, who have been trying for a baby for six years were told that IVF was their only chance of conceiving, yet the trust will only pay for treatment for couples aged between 35 and 38.
After meeting with Ms Young this week, Mr Mackenzie said: 'I still feel we have been discriminated against, and as an Oxfordshire taxpayer I would like to call for the resignation of the person responsible'. He continued: 'We want to send a clear message showing how serious we are and it would be great to get somebody more pro-active who could take over and fight to make this discrimination come to an end.'
A statement from Oxfordshire PCT said that 'all nine PCTs across the NHS south central region have confirmed they would like the same policy in place' and that a report on proposed policy changes (reducing the age at which treatment can be provided to between 30 and 34) is being presented to the Oxfordshire health and overview scrutiny committee.