IVF success rates are three-and-a-half times lower in some parts of the UK because of a cruel ‘postcode lottery’, experts have warned.
Women having the procedure at St Jude’s Fertility Clinic in Wolverhampton have just a 12 per cent chance of having a baby.
By contrast, the success rate of an IVF cycle at University Hospital Coventry – just a 50-minute drive away – is 43 per cent.
The disparity was today described as ‘cruel and unjust’ by charities who said couples shouldn’t be denied the chance to become parents based on their ‘postcode or pay packet’.
IVF success rates are almost four times lower in some parts of the UK because of a cruel ‘postcode lottery’, experts have warned. The top five best and worst clinics are shown (source: University Hospital Coventry)
A normal IVF cycle costs between £3,000 and £5,000. But couples may have to fork out at least ten times before a pregnancy at some clinics.
Just 15 per cent of cycles resulted in a birth at the New Life fertility centre in Epsom, Surrey, the second poorest performing clinic in Britain.
Glasgow Royal Infirmary has the second highest success rate (43 per cent), according to 2017 data published by UK’s fertility watchdog in December.
IVF SUCCESS RATES: TEN WORST CLINICS
Lanarkshire Acute Hospital – 6%
Bristol Reproductive Centre – 9%
St Judes Wolverhampton – 12%
Harley Street London – 15%
Newlife Clinic Epsom – 15%
Homerton Fertility – 17%
Concept Fertility Wandsworth – 17%
BMI Chelsfield Park Hospital – 17%
North Middlesex University Hospital – 17%
Reproductive Genetics Institute London – 19%
Source: HFEA and University Hospital in Coventry
Responding to the data, Gwenda Burns, chief executive of charity Fertility Network UK, told MailOnline: ‘The postcode lottery is cruel and unjust.
‘Access to quality fertility treatment should be dependent on your medical need, not your postcode or pay packet.
‘The UK pioneered IVF over 40 years ago, but that achievement means nothing if only those who can afford to pay for private fertility treatment benefit from it.
‘Facing fertility problems is distressing enough, without being denied medical help because of where you live.’
Former health minister Jackie Doyle-Price last year wrote to all clinical commissioning groups, which control who get IVF cycles on the NHS.
She called for them bring an end to another postcode lottery which has seen the number of health authorities in England offering the full recommended three IVF cycles halved in five years.
Just 12 per cent of clinical commissioning groups, which have the final decision on what treatments can be dished out, now follow national guidance.
This is down from 24 per cent in 2013, a report by campaign group Fertility Fairness showed in 2018.
And seven areas now have an outright ban on funding IVF – a figure which has more than tripled in five years.
A normal IVF cycle costs between £3,000 and £5,000. But couples may have to fork at least ten times before a pregnancy at some clinics
IVF clinics ‘are ’embezzling’ £42million a year from couples by charging for a needless add-on treatment’
IVF clinics are ’embezzling’ millions of pounds from patients by selling needles add-on treatments, a leading expert has warned.
Professor Chris Barratt, of Dundee University, said around half of couples are being offered ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection).
The treatment, which costs up to £1,400, is designed help men with poor sperm. But he said fertility problems strike only a third of men.
Health watchdogs say there is ‘no data’ to support its use in couples where the man’s fertility is normal. There are also concerns ISCI may cause birth defects.
The treatment, in which a single sperm is injected directly into the egg, may actually cut the chances of conceiving, studies have found.
Professor Barratt told the Progress Educational Trust’s annual conference in London in December: ‘The question is why do you have a large number of people having ICSI who don’t have male-factor infertility.
‘Why is that happening? The only conclusion logically you can come to is that it’s financially driven. That might not be true but it’s the only logical conclusion.’
At a cost of £1,390 per patient, fertility doctors could make an extra £700,000 year by doing ICSI when they don’t need to, Professor Barratt said.
Health watchdogs urge CCGs to offer women under 40 access to three cycles of IVF to boost their chances of having children, so long as they meet certain criteria.
But financial restrictions are forcing many to defy recommendations and slash the service completely as they seek to save millions of pounds – scuppering the hopes of thousands of women.
The majority (61 per cent) of CCGs now offer just one cycle, a leap from almost 50 per cent in 2013, the report showed.
Furthermore, 7 per cent are currently consulting whether they should scrap or reduce NHS fertility treatment.
To work out the success rates of each clinic, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) looked at all live IVF births for patients under 38 years of age at NHS and private clinics around Britain in 2017.
The data was published online and interpreted by researchers at University Hospital in Coventry.
It showed more than half of the 79 clinics (38) analysed fell short of the 29 per cent national average birth rate.
The HFEA said that some clinics specifically looked after older patients – who find it harder to conceive – which may have skewed the figures.
Less than two in ten transferred embryos result in a pregnancy at Harley Street fertility clinic in London and Epsom NHS Trust – making them the joint third worst performing centres.
By comparison, four out of ten embryos resulted in a birth at the Simply Fertlility clinic in Chelmsford.
More than 54,000 patients had 75,000 fertility treatments in 2017, with the number of IVF cycles up 2.5 per cent on 2016.
A spokesperson for the HEFA said: ‘Going through fertility treatment can be a highly emotional time for patients and we understand that many people will focus exclusively on success rates when choosing a fertility clinic.
‘However, it’s important to remember that a great fertility clinic isn’t just about providing effective treatment.
‘Looking at average rates do not take into account differences in patient characteristics across clinics such as age, reason for infertility, partner type or prior treatment, all of which will have an impact on the success rate.
‘When comparing success rates, it’s important to choose a clinic with success rates comparable to the national average, instead of focussing on small differences between percentage point. Even then, these figures are clinic averages and patients should not read them as predictions of their chance of success.’
|Clinic||Success rate||Clinic||Success rate|
|CRM Coventry||43%||BMI Priory||28%|
|Glasgow Royal Infirmary||42%||Care Manchester||28%|
|Simply Fertlility||40%||Complete Southampton||28%|
|Create London St Pauls||39%||Fertility and Gynaecology London||28%|
|Care Nottingham||37%||James Cook||28%|
|Agora||37%||Wessex Fertility Limited||28%|
|Nuffield Health Assisted Conception services||37%||Regional Fertility Centre Belfast||27%|
|Kings||34%||Chelsea and Westminister||26%|
|Bristol||33%||Shropshire and Mid Wales Fertility||26%|
|Care Sheffield||33%||Reproductive health group cheshire||26%|
|Edinburgh||33%||Newcastle Fertility Centre @ Life||26%|
|IVI London||33%||Glasgow CRM||25%|
|Create Birmingham||32%||London Womens Darlington||25%|
|Boston Place||32%||London Womens Wales||25%|
|Bourn Hall||32%||South West CRM||25%|
|Hewitt Liverpool||32%||Wales Fertility institute cardiff||24%|
|Hull||31%||Wales Fertility institute neath||24%|
|Thames Valley Fertility||31%||Exeter||22%|
|Sussex Downs||31%||Harts and Essex||22%|
|Care Birmingham||30%||Manchester Fertility||22%|
|Care Tamworth||30%||Bourne Hall Colchester||21%|
|Care Tunbridge Wells||30%||London Fertility||21%|
|London Womens||30%||Salisbury Fertility Clinic||20%|
|oxford fertility||30%||Reproductive Genetics Institute London||19%|
|Birmingham Womens||29%||BMI Chelsfield Park||17%|
|Bourne Hall Norwich||29%||Epsom||15%|
|Jessop Sheffield||29%||Harley Street||15%|
HOW DOES IVF WORK?
In-vitro fertilisation, known as IVF, is a medical procedure in which a woman has an already-fertilised egg inserted into her womb to become pregnant.
It is used when couples are unable to conceive naturally, and a sperm and egg are removed from their bodies and combined in a laboratory before the embryo is inserted into the woman.
Once the embryo is in the womb, the pregnancy should continue as normal.
The procedure can be done using eggs and sperm from a couple or those from donors.
Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that IVF should be offered on the NHS to women under 43 who have been trying to conceive through regular unprotected sex for two years.
People can also pay for IVF privately, which costs an average of £3,348 for a single cycle, according to figures published in January 2018, and there is no guarantee of success.
The NHS says success rates for women under 35 are about 29 per cent, with the chance of a successful cycle reducing as they age.
Around eight million babies are thought to have been born due to IVF since the first ever case, British woman Louise Brown, was born in 1978.
Chances of success
The success rate of IVF depends on the age of the woman undergoing treatment, as well as the cause of the infertility (if it’s known).
Younger women are more likely to have a successful pregnancy.
IVF isn’t usually recommended for women over the age of 42 because the chances of a successful pregnancy are thought to be too low.
Between 2014 and 2016 the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth was:
29 per cent for women under 35
23 per cent for women aged 35 to 37
15 per cent for women aged 38 to 39
9 per cent for women aged 40 to 42
3 per cent for women aged 43 to 44
2 per cent for women aged over 44