BioNews reporting from ESHRE conference, Madrid:
According to a report presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) annual conference in Madrid, Spain, the UK performs poorly compared to other European countries in terms of the provision of fertility treatments. Infertile couples seeking treatment in the UK are among the least likely in Europe to receive the treatment they require.
Results of the annual survey of ten European countries that report full data on IVF treatments showed that the UK slipped from eighth place on the 'league table' in 1997 to tenth place in 2000. In 2000, the UK performed 585 IVF cycles per million inhabitants, compared to Denmark, in first place, which provided 1,826 cycles per million people. This is despite the fact that the UK performs more IVF than most European countries except Germany and France. The UK also came below Finland, Slovenia, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland. Germany is expected to begin contributing data from next year, and should occupy a position on the table similar to that of France. The study authors estimate that Spain, Italy and some Eastern European countries probably come below the UK.
The difference may be explained in terms of public funding. Whereas Denmark will reimburse the costs of up to six IVF cycles per couple, the NHS in the UK pays for very few. Many health authorities in the UK don't fund IVF at all and most couples pay for private treatment. 'The explanation is money', said Dr Nyboe Andersen of the Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark, who compiled the data. 'Availability means money, the resources allocated in each country', he continued. In a direct plea to the UK, Professor Karl Nygren of the Sophiahemmet Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, said 'The UK is a sophisticated country with good quality IVF. Why should the UK be bottom of the list? Don't you love your families? Why are you being so mean to them? Look at Denmark, they do it much better than you'.