62% of private IVF clinic customers feel ripped off

HFEA’s first ever national fertility patient survey shows that 62% of patients whose most recent treatment was at a private IVF clinic said they paid more than they expected.

The UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has published its second annual state of the fertility sector report and the first ever national fertility patient survey, providing an overview of the UK’s fertility sector and what patients think of the services they receive.

The independent national survey of patients who recently had fertility treatment reveals that 75% of patients are satisfied with their treatment experience at clinics, with no significant differences in satisfaction levels among patients whether they paid privately or were treated by the NHS. Patients were more likely than partners to say that they felt involved and treated with respect and dignity in certain aspects of their treatment and those receiving treatment more recently reported higher levels of the use of treatment ‘add-ons’ than those who were treated two to five years ago. However, more worryingly, 62% of patients whose most recent treatment was at a private clinic said they paid more than they expected.

The UK fertility regulator released annual statistics showing that 60% of IVF cycles are now privately funded and that 74% of patients over the past two years paid for one or more ‘add-on’ treatments, up from 66% in the previous two years.

Patients often feel pressure to opt for add-ons and many are understandably keen to explore every option to improve their chances of having a baby, but such treatments should only be offered where there is proof they work‘ said the HFEA’s Chair, Sally Cheshire.

Add-ons can vary from so-called ’embryo glue’, or scratching the uterine lining to encourage implantation, to alternative therapies such as acupuncture. Over 1000 patients were surveyed across the UK and including those whose treatment was NHS funded, and those paying privately.

Sally adds: “I am pleased that this report indicates there is continued good performance across the UK fertility sector, but we know there is more work to be done to make sure that all patients receive the best quality of care.

In 2017-18 more patients came to the HFEA with complaints about their clinic. There were 86 complaints from patients who had been unable to resolve their complaint with their clinic, a 21% increase on number received in 2016-17. There has been a decrease in the number of clinical complaints and an increase in communication and general complaints during the year.