Decline in NHS-funded IVF across England

Fertility experts urge IVF clinics to share success rates
Fertility experts urge IVF clinics to share success rates

The proportion of fertility treatments funded by the NHS in England has continued to decline, with sharp falls reported in some parts of the country, according to new figures published today by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

England had the lowest proportion of NHS-funded fertility treatments in the UK in 2017 at just 35% – down 4% on 2012 figures – as CCGs continued to limit the number of cycles they fund. The decline has been gradual across most of the country but in the East of England there was a dramatic shift in NHS funded treatment from 58% of all cycles in 2012 to just 36% in 2017.

In contrast, NHS-funded IVF treatments in Scotland increased from 43% in 2012 to 62% in 2017, while in Wales they rose from 28% to 41%. Northern Ireland also saw an increase in NHS-funded activity from 48% to 50%.

Despite the decline in public funding, the vast majority of fertility treatments continued to take place in England. Just over 65,000 of the 75,000 treatment cycles carried out in the UK in 2017 were in England. Overall, the number of IVF treatment cycles across the UK increased by 2.5% between 2016 and 2017.

Figures published in HFEA’s Fertility Treatment 2017: trends and figures also revealed continued improvement in success rates. The average birth rate for women of all ages using their own eggs reached 22%, while women under 35 using their own eggs had the highest birth rates with 30% for a fresh cycle and 27% for a frozen cycle.

Averaged across women of all ages, frozen cycles success rates of 23% overtook fresh embryo cycles success rates for the first time since records began.

According to the HFEA, the reasons for seeking fertility treatment are also beginning to change as more same-sex couples, single women and surrogates help drive increased demand.

While patients in heterosexual relationships still account for more than 91% of all fertility treatments, this only saw a 2% increase between 2016 and 2017. This is in stark contrast to the increases in treatments for patients in female same-sex relationships which rose by 12% to 4,463 cycles, single women by 4% to 2,279 cycles and treatments for surrogates by 22% to 302 cycles between 2016 and 2017.

HFEA chair Sally Cheshire CBE said: ‘We are seeing a gradual change in the reasons why people use fertility treatments, which were originally developed to help heterosexual couples with infertility problems. While the increases in same-sex couples, single women and surrogates having fertility treatment are small, this reflects society’s changing attitudes towards family creation, lifestyles and relationships and highlights the need for the sector to continue to evolve and adapt.’