'We want to make access to treatment on the NHS as fair as possible - giving more people the opportunity to conceive. Over the last five years we have invested around £24 million to reduce IVF waiting times and improve the outcomes for couples' said Aileen Campbell, Scottish Government Minister for Public Health.
Following two recommendations by the National Infertility Group last summer, Scottish Government Ministers decided to implement the change which is believed to be both cost- and clinically effective. By doing so, Scotland becomes the first part of the UK to fulfil National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines on IVF availability.
Since 1 September 2016, people in Scotland who have children living with them but where one partner does not have a biological child can access IVF. As of 1 April 2017, women under 40 who have not previously undergone IVF treatment will qualify for three cycles. Women aged 40 to 42 may access one full IVF cycle, which includes implantation of fresh embryos and any resultant frozen embryos.
'We commend the Scottish Government both for recognising the importance of treating this medical condition, and for taking action to help the one-in-six couples affected by infertility,' said Sarah Norcross, co-chair of Fertility Fairness and director of Progress Educational Trust.
The offer of three IVF cycles is in stark contrast to what is currently available to patients in most other parts of the UK. Many Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England have reduced IVF provision and some have abolished funding entirely (see BioNews 893) leading to accusations of a 'postcode lottery' (See BioNews 881).
'In Wales and Northern Ireland, while there is equity of provision in terms of the number of cycles offered and the access criteria around children from previous relationships, nobody with fertility problems can access three funded IVF cycles. In Wales, affected individuals are offered two funded cycles of fertility; in Northern Ireland, only one funded IVF cycle is offered', commented Sarah Norcross.