WOMEN aged 34 are being refused IVF treatment on the NHS in areas across the UK, it has been revealed.
Official guidelines say that women should be offered in vitro fertilisation until the age of 42 – but new figures show that the NHS is offering just a fraction of what is promised.
In Wales and Scotland couples are offered IVF until they are 42 as long as certain criteria are met.
But in England, seven of 195 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have stopped offering IVF on the NHS completely, the BBC found.
An additional 12 others deny treatment to women over 34 – while offering only one full cycle to those under that age.
Guidelines from health watchdog NICE recommend that women under 40 should be offered three full cycles of IVF, and those between 40 and 42 one full cycle.
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However, a total of 85 CCGs in England – 43 per cent of the total – have cut IVF completely for women over 39.
The shocking figures, analysed by The Victoria Derbyshire Show from Freedom of Information requests, have been criticised for “penalising” certain women.
England’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Victoria Derbyshire such restrictions were “not acceptable”.
“Decisions on the treatments that are made available to people should be made on their clinical need,” he said.
“There is a reason we have guidelines in the first place – and that’s to provide the standard the country should expect.”
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has blamed “inadequate government funding” and said it was “very concerned that women and their partners are turning to costly private clinics for treatment”.
One 38-year-old woman, Charlotte, told the programme she was too old to qualify for the procedure in Southampton and might be forced to move to an area where the age limit is not in place.
“It’s just unfair, because I am not over the hill,” she said.
“To say that 35 and over is the end of having children is ridiculous.”
Sarah Norcross, co-chair of campaign group Fertility Fairness, told the programme that it “penalises the women who take longer to find a partner or wish to put themselves on a secure financial footing before trying to conceive”.
Nice recommends Government funding for three full IVF cycles, but funding varies across the country and access is often described as a postcode lottery.
It means six out of 10 IVF cycles in the UK are funded by patients themselves, according to the the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).
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In the last two years, 30 CCGs (15.3%) have slashed NHS fertility services, and one in 10 is currently consulting on cutting or removing NHS fertility treatment.
Ms Norcross said: “It is shocking to see CCGs introducing their own ‘access to IVF’ criteria, as well as reducing the number of IVF cycles they offer.
“It is not the CCG’s job to decide the criteria for accessing NHS fertility services.”
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