Don’t wait seven months for NHS fertility tests

Addenbrookes fertility testing waiting times
Screenshot of NHS Choices website, 28 February 2018

For couples struggling with infertility there is a seven-month wait for NHS fertility tests at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, according to its website. With no funding available for assisted reproduction in Cambridgeshire, fertility specialists are urging couples to take advantage of the free fertility advice and wellbeing service available at Bourn Hall Clinic to gain a better understanding of their options.

“If you really want a baby then don’t wait for NHS testing,” advises Dr Thanos Papathanasiou, Regional Lead Clinician at Bourn Hall Clinic. “Younger people have more options for boosting natural fertility.”

84 per cent of couples under the age of 39[i] will conceive within a year of regular unprotected sex; if you have been trying for longer than this then you need to seek good advice and have tests to rule out medical causes of infertility.

Dr Papathanasiou continues: “If you haven’t become pregnant in a year or two of trying then there is an issue of some type and we can help you to overcome this. Many of the common causes of infertility are easily treated. For example, weight loss programmes, ovulation induction medication or lifestyle changes.

Long wait for NHS fertility tests

“However, the NHS protocol means that GPs have to advise patients to wait for over a year before they are referred for testing and there is currently a further seven month wait at Addenbrooke’s for fertility tests that might take a year to complete if multiple visits are required.

“Enduring months of testing to pin-point the reason before treatment can start is not a good use of resources.”

“Our approach is to give a free fertility consultation at the first appointment and recommend appropriate tests such as semen analysis and ovulation assessment. If a complete fertility check is needed these tests can be completed in six weeks and the results discussed with a consultant.

“We describe this as fertility management – looking at both partners to understand the issues and then to proceed with a treatment based approach.

The call for action comes after a free Fertility Awareness Event held at Bourn Hall revealed the multitude of issues facing the participants.

  • One woman reported being given medication to stimulate egg production even though her fallopian tubes were blocked.
  • Several men had to redo their semen analysis as the samples had been left too long before testing.
  • Others reported how they were given treatment before it was discovered it was their partner who had the fertility issue. In one case the man was a carrier of Cystic Fibrosis and had no sperm count so further testing or treatment of his partner was futile.

Bourn Hall provides a free fertility consultation with a fertility nurse specialist. Tests are available without a GP referral, either individually or as a suite and may reveal an issue that can be easily treated to restore fertility without the need for IVF.

[i] https://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/2295.aspx

More information

Register for a free mini-consultation with a fertility nurse specialist

Find out more about the tests offered by Bourn Hall here.

Common questions that people ask fertility nurses.

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