In response to public concerns regarding hidden fertility treatment costs, the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has announced that IVF clinics must provide personalised, costed treatment plans from the outset of early consultations in order to be licensed. The mandate aims to assist patients to better understand how much their fertility treatment is realistically likely to cost.
Currently, approximately 70 per cent of IVF patients pay an estimated £3,500 for private fertility treatment, but charges for drugs and diagnostic tests can increase that amount to over £8,000 per cycle of IVF. Although the HFEA cannot cap or regulate the amount private clinics charge, it does police quality standards, including the information to be provided to patients through a legal licensing scheme and guidance.
Professional and patient groups have welcomed the provisions, and the HFEA says it will work closely with them and providers during the upcoming months to develop guidance for costed treatment plans. It will evaluate various existing procedures to explain fee structures and prices and determine which is the best practice to use as a model to help devise guidance for the entire sector.
The initiative was prompted by repeated concern regarding costs voiced by the HFEA?s online advisory panel, Fertility Views, which surveys 1000 current and former IVF patients. Among those surveyed, 85 per cent paid privately but only 20 per cent were provided with an individual costed treatment plan. The others were given general price lists or verbal information. Over a quarter experienced additional unexpected fees and 88 per cent would have preferred a personalised fee breakdown. The additional expense was largely for medication.
The HFEA acknowledges that accurately estimating drug costs is extremely difficult because the cost depends on various factors including prescription duration, dosage amount and ineffectiveness or side-effects dictating medication changes. However, the HFEA guidance will address this by requiring providers to inform patients of any drug or additional cost increases. Alan Doran, HFEA interim Chief Executive, said: 'Going through treatment for infertility is very stressful and we know that one of the key concerns for patients is how much it will cost. The HFEA can work with clinics to help them ease patients concerns about cost, by ensuring that they are empowered with clear and reliable information'.