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RCOG statement in response to IVF rationing in England

News 29 October 2018

Campaign group, Fertility Fairness, has today released new figures which show England’s clinical commission groups (CCGs) are rationing access to NHS fertility services by setting their own access criteria.

The 2018 audit, based on freedom of information requests, reveals that 87% of England’s 195 CCGs failed to provide three full cycles of IVF treatment in line with the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines. The report also found women over the age of 34 were refused IVF treatment on the NHS in 12 areas of England.

Professor Adam Balen, Professor of Reproductive Medicine and Surgery and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said:

“It is extremely disappointing to see that some clinical commissioning groups across the country are still failing to provide fully-funded IVF treatment for women and their partners, as recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

“NICE guidance recommends that infertile women under the age of 40 should receive three cycles of IVF treatment. But inadequate government funding means that access to these services varies across Trusts and clinics, with many women receiving only one free cycle, and some not being offered any cycles at all. IVF treatment is cost effective and if couples are provided with three cycles the majority will have a realistic chance of conceiving.

“We are very concerned that women and their partners are turning to costly private clinics for treatment or to travel abroad to countries were services may be less well-regulated. Another concern is that with only one free cycle, women may opt for implantation of more than one embryo which can lead to a higher risk of a multiple birth and this in turn may increase the chances of developing harmful complications for both mother and her babies.

“The resulting health inequalities from inadequate IVF treatment are completely unacceptable. The RCOG is calling on all UK commissioners and healthcare providers to follow NICE guidance and to end the current postcode lottery for IVF treatment. Scotland is leading the way by offering all couples fully-funded three cycles of IVF treatment and England must follow suit as a matter of urgency.”



For media enquiries, please contact the RCOG press office on 020 7045 6773 or email  

Fertility Fairness 2018 NHS IVF provision data

Fertility Fairness 2018 NHS IVF provision infographic

Government funding of IVF is the most important factor that could maintain low rates of multiple pregnancies following treatment and reduce associated complications for mothers and babies, as well as costs to the NHS, found a Scientific Impact Paper published by the RCOG in January 2018:

A new report, produced by the RCOG’s National Guideline Alliance, reveals that twin births are almost three times as expensive as singleton births.

NICE guidance on fertility problems published in 2013: