Three couples are to receive IVF treatment funded by a UK regional newspaper that, in January this year, offered its readers the chance to 'win' free fertility treatment. The Birmingham Post offered the IVF prizes as part of a week-long campaign to raise awareness of infertility, the types of treatment available, and the lack of universal funding for treatment.
The Birmingham Post teamed up with the Midlands Fertility Service (MFS), a fertility clinic, to launch the 'Funded Fertility Treatment For All' campaign. It initiated the campaign to highlight the fact that not all UK PCTs provide funding for couples needing IVF, despite the fact that Health Secretary John Reid announced plans for all PCTs to fund one free IVF treatment cycle to women aged below 40 by 1 April 2005. This announcement followed a recommendation from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) that said that couples should be offered up to three free cycles.
The newspaper said that it had been 'overwhelmed' by the number of entries it had received, and that the three winning couples have been trying for families for a total of 15 years altogether. Each couple had to complete an application form and write a letter explaining how and why they would benefit from funded fertility treatment. The couple's treatments are to begin within the next few weeks. Fiona Alexander, the newspaper's editor, said that the public interest 'highlighted the postcode lottery of NHS funding'.
Dr Gillian Lockwood, medical director at the Midlands Fertility Service and chair of the British Fertility Society (BFS) Ethics Committee, said that the response showed that more money should be invested in fertility treatment on the NHS. 'The majority of the applicants would have had a realistic chance of success from fertility treatment', she said, and 'only the lack of money or funding is stopping them getting pregnant'.