Around one in three women entitled to receive IVF are being denied this right, according to a survey carried out by the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC).
More than 400 women attending fertility clinics were surveyed, with 38 percent found to have been incorrectly denied treatment according to guidelines set out by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). This was attributed to a lack of knowledge on issues of infertility and treatment options from their local GPs.
Dr Clare Gerada, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, told the Guardian newspaper: 'I don't usually take very seriously surveys that show that GPs don't know what they are doing but I agree with this survey. I'm surprised and worried that GPs aren't sympathetic'.
One in six couples in the UK face infertility, currently defined by NICE as the inability to conceive a child naturally after trying for three years. The recent NIAC survey of women dealing with infertility found nearly half said that their GPs were not knowledgeable about their condition or of the treatment options available. Of those who were referred to a specialist for IVF treatment, 27 percent had to wait over a year for treatment and 12 percent up to two years, further reducing their chances of conceiving.
'Infertility treatment has for too long been seen as a low priority, failing the one in six couples who live with the devastating impact this illness has on their lives', said Ms Clare Lewis-Jones, the chair of NIAC and CEO of the patient charity Infertility Network UK.
From 2013, local GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) will take on the commissioning responsibilities of services such as infertility treatment, a decision that has concerned NIAC. 'Our main concern stems from the level of preparation within each CCG as our survey results have led us to have some concerns about the readiness of these groups to take on this role', said Ms Lewis-Jones.
'The stress of IVF is unavoidable. What is avoidable, however, is the exacerbation of these effects through reductions to services and long waiting times'. Last year 73 percent of NHS primary care trusts failed to provide comprehensive IVF treatment to infertile couples in their area, according to a report from MPs.
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Study finds GPs unsympathetic to infertile couples