One chance to have baby

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INFERTILE couples in Sheffield desperate to have a child receive just one cycle of IVF on the NHS - against a recommended maximum of three.

A postcode lottery for fertility treatment in South Yorkshire also sees the NHS in Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster fund only two cycles of treatment.

But government guidelines introduced seven years ago say health trusts should pay for three attempts if the woman is aged between 23 and 39.

The latest figures have been revealed as part of a damning report from a cross-party group of MPs which found 73 per cent of NHS trusts are ignoring the National Institute of Clinical Excellence or NICE guidance.

The document, produced by the All Party Parliamentary Group or APPG on Infertility, also highlighted five trusts which offer no IVF at all.

It found that many worked to strict criteria on age, weight, smoking and whether one partner already had a child - regardless of whether they had contact - although there were no rules on alcohol and caffeine consumption, factors which are known to play a role in fertility.

The report said the criteria revealed that the NICE guidelines had been “taken out of context by PCTs and used to place arbitrary restrictions on the provision of IVF”.

But a spokeswoman for NHS Sheffield said they were not currently in a position to be able to afford to fund three cycles of IVF treatment for would-be parents.

She added: “It is our aim to implement NICE guidance fully and therefore offer three IVF cycles per couple - however this is dependent on available finances.

“Currently, because of the need to meet many resource and service requirements, NHS Sheffield is not in a position to offer three.

“People who do not meet the eligibility criteria may still be referred by their GP to be considered as exceptional cases.”

A spokesman for the Yorkshire and Humber Specialised Commissioning Group, which carried out a review into IVF services across the region last year, added: “The current economic climate demands that PCTs make difficult decisions regarding priority and efficiencies.”

But Gareth Johnson, chairman of the APPG on Infertility, said: “IVF is the creation of life and gives hope to thousands of infertile couples across the UK.

“IVF treatment was invented in Britain and so, more than any other country, we should be championing its use.

“As chairman of the APPG on Infertility, I believe that all PCTs should be offering three cycles of treatment as recommended by the NICE guidelines.

“One in seven couples in the UK suffers from infertility problems, indeed more women attend GP surgeries to obtain advice on infertility than on any issue other than pregnancy.

“This shows just how big an issue infertility is for so many people.”