Secret heartbreak of infertility – friends and family urged to speak up

‘Hidden grief’ makes IVF an easy target to cut says Fertility Network UK

Fertility Network UKFertility Network UK is urging family and friends of people struggling with infertility – and seen the impact on their lives – to participate in a consultation (closing 21st December) on NHS funded-IVF treatment across Luton, Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes. Only Luton offers the recommended three cycles of treatment and local commissioners want to cut this so that all areas have just one.

Gwenda Burns, Chief Executive of Fertility Network UK, says: “Yearning for a baby can damage mental well-being and destroy relationships, but often couples hide the pain. Time is running out to have a say and It is really important that commissioners hear from those who don’t have fertility issues, as well as those that do, about the devastating impact infertility has on the quality of life.”

Gwenda explains that: “It is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) that everyone who meet the eligibility criteria should have three full cycles funded by the NHS as this offers the best chance of success. We would like to see this guidance followed in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes.”

In Scotland, where 3 cycles are provided on the NHS, the decision was based on evidence that showed that less than 10% of patients would need this full level of treatment, so the higher success rates of over 60% were justified by the small additional cost.

IVF birth rates have increased since this research was completed with Bourn Hall, provider of NHS funded IVF treatment to patients across the East of England reporting over 70% of patients becoming pregnant within 3 cycles. Sadly, the postcode lottery means that only some of the NHS patients it treats will be eligible for their best chance of success.

Dr Mike Macnamee, CEO of Bourn Hall, says: “Effective fertility treatment requires repeated exposure to the opportunity to conceive and the link between increased female age and reduced chance of success is well recognised. So, the best patient outcomes are when treatment happens in the shortest time frame possible.”

Bourn Hall patients Eloise and her husband Ian lived in Luton when they were referred for IVF and were entitled to three fresh cycles (defined as three fresh IVF treatments including transfer of any frozen embryos created during treatment). The couple conceived on their second frozen embryo transfer after two fresh cycles – if they had lived in Bedford they wouldn’t have their baby girl.

Infertility is a type of grief and Eloise says she told few people about how she was feeling: “I do think infertility is something that you have to go through to really understand, but my mum was also deeply affected; grieving the loss that it hadn’t worked and also sad for us because it wasn’t happening.”

Eloise with husband Ian and their daughter
Eloise with husband Ian and their daughter

It is this private grief that makes it easier for commissioners to consider cutting NHS funding. Gwenda Burns concludes: “If you haven’t already, please respond to the consultation and let them know what you think before it closes on December 21 – and also please try to get as many of your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues as you can to do it too!”

Details of the consultation questionnaire here – eu.surveymonkey.com/r/BLMK-PolicyAlignment There are more details about the consultation itself here – blmkccg.nhs.uk/…/blmk-policy-consultation/

The current provision for NHS funded IVF in East Anglia (with Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes highlighted):

NHS IVF Funding Map for East of England (Bedford, Luton, Milton Keynes Dec 21)

Find out more about NHS funding for IVF in our blog.


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