We have written before on Total Fertility about ‘what does IVF cost?’, but this is a really important and topical subject at the moment in the area of assisted conception treatments.
Across the UK there are over 100 fertility clinics offering fertility treatments to patients. Costs vary between clinics and patients may find identical treatments cost variable amounts in different clinics. There is no price cap imposed on IVF treatments and so clinics are able to set their own prices. It is an expensive for patients as many of these treatments require modern equipment and involve cutting edge science and technology.
NHS Funded IVF Treatment
The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that heterosexual couples requiring IVF under the age of 40 should be able to access three full IVF treatment cycles. However, NHS funding streams are limited and require prioritisation so increasingly patients are having to foot the bill for the treatments they require to have any chance of starting a family. Same-sex couples must first prove that they have fertility issues by self-funding a minimum of six cycles of intrauterine insemination treatment with donor sperm. There is so much inequity in the system that understandably frustrates patients and clinics.
Over the last two decades the postcode lottery in the UK has stoked an ongoing debate that has engulfed how patients should access fertility treatments. Whether you are eligible for NHS funded fertility treatments will depend on where you are located and your Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) criteria. This has created a postcode lottery for patients and we are in desperate need of a National policy that can be applied to all.
Self-funded IVF Treatment
One of the difficulties for patients has been working out the total costs involved when self-funding treatment. Some clinics provide treatment packages and other clinics itemise individual costs separately. This has led to a wave of dissatisfaction at the inconsistency and at times lack of transparency around pricing in clinics. The Competitions and Markets Authority is working with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to improve this important issue for patients.
Differentiating between treatment costs that are essential and those costs that are considered to be treatment ‘add-ons’, can be difficult for patients. Essential items such as the HFEA registration fee, medication costs, sedation for an egg collection, blastocyst culture, ultrasound monitoring and blood tests are not always clearly defined. Treatment ‘add-ons’ are treatments that may improve outcomes for patients, but for which there is no strong evidence for their use. There are a number of these treatment options available and can increase treatment costs, often tempting patients
Financing IVF & IVF Packages
Fertility finance can help patients access treatments that they need, which otherwise they might be unable to pay for immediately. This must be considered in many cases, though patients may be left servicing a debt for treatments that may have not worked. Companies such as Access Fertility are one of the first to try to help ring fence treatment costs with a number of attractive packages that offer treatment discounts and refunds available. Access Fertility work with a number of clinics across the UK.
We spoke to Mr Raj Mathur about this important topic in our latest episode of The Total Fertility Podcast.