NHS Trusts across England are coming under fire once again for restricting access to IVF treatment – this time for those it deems obese or smokers.
According to media reports, IVF is one of many procedures which are being refused to people who are overweight or smokers, in some areas potential parents have to be non-smokers for six months to be considered for treatment and within a certain BMI range for their weight.
GP magazine Pulse reports that out of 91 NHS trusts in England, 25 have imposed some kind of restriction since April last year. The differing criteria applied by the various trusts have been slammed by organisations including the Royal College of GPs, which warns that the system is fast becoming a case of ‘the deserving and the undeserving’. But others say it is justified – because certain treatments and operations are less successful in those who smoke or who are overweight, and carry more risk.
There have been many studies linking infertility and lifestyle, which show that fertility is affected by factors such as your weight and smoking. Smoking may affect fertility in women and in men, the quality of sperm. It’s why we would encourage you to make sure you’re as healthy as possible before starting any kind of IVF or infertility treatment, to give yourself the best chance of success.
But should the decision about who gets treatment, and who doesn’t, be the responsibility of individual NHS trusts? At the moment there is no national guidance – no one rule which applies to all. It’s why there is a postcode lottery in action, because all of the individual trusts can decide their own rules. Once again IVF has become an easy target to reduce costs for cash-strapped trusts, and by applying ‘lifestyle’ criteria it means even less cycles of IVF are funded.
If you need IVF and are affected by restrictions, there is help. Infertility Network UK has plenty of information on its site about funding for IVF on the NHS.
And don’t forget if you’re 35 or under and are willing to donate some of your eggs, you can benefit from a cycle of subsidised IVF with us at £800, including all tests and drugs, by joining our egg-sharing programme. Find out more about egg-sharing here.