NHS Funding Eligibility in England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland

While fertility treatments are available on the NHS, you might be confused about the specifics on policy and eligibility in different parts of the UK. This is perfectly understandable as sometimes these things are less than clear, particularly where something as complex as fertility treatment is involved. This short article should give you all the information you need to find out whether or not you are eligible for NHS funding for your fertility treatment based on where you live.

Am I eligible for funding in England?

In England the NHS tends to follow the guidance of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), an institution which provides guidelines to the nation’s different trusts on how to proceed with treatment and funding. Under NICE couples in England are eligible for funding of as many as 3 cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF) or a sister procedure, ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection) provided the couple have had over 3 years of fertility trouble, a known cause of infertility, and the female partner is aged between 23-39).

While these are the general guidelines they aren’t necessarily followed everywhere in the UK as funding in different trusts varies. The decision whether or not to provide funding ultimately rests with each hospital’s governing primary care trust (PCT), under whose authority funding for you treatment can be granted or denied.

PCTs in England will all provide their own eligibility criteria as well, giving preference to couples (or single mums) who don’t have any children, have a healthy BMI, and who have not undergone any previous fertility treatment.

Am I eligible for funding in Wales?

NICE guidelines do apply to hospitals within Wales, and since their implementation the Welsh Assembly has allowed that all couples who meet the required eligibility criteria should be able to receive at least one IVF or ICSI cycle.

The Welsh Assembly and Health Commission Wales are the governing bodies within Wales that have determined the eligibility criteria within Wales, which are largely in line with NICE’s criteria as discussed above. In that sense eligibility in Wales is very similar to that in England.

Am I eligible for funding in Scotland?

Different advisory groups are responsible for treatment in Scotland and so criteria aren’t regulated by NICE or their affiliated groups. The Expert Advisory Group on Infertility (EAGISS) are the organization responsible for the guidelines followed in the country, and their February 2000 publication on the subject of treating infertility allows up to three cycles of treatment, like in England and Wales, provided that two of those treatment cycles did not involve frozen eggs, sperm, or embryos, and that frozen materials would only be used in the third cycle of treatment. Funding is available for these treatments up to the age of 38, provided that the patient does not have any children and has had fewer than 3 previous embryo transfers that were funded.

Am I eligible for funding in Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland’s criteria were changed in 2006 to provide couples with state funded fertility treatments. These changes were implemented by the country’s health minister Paul Goggins, and allow all couples who qualify at least one treatment cycle under public funding. The maximum age for women to be treated was increased from 37 to 39, and finally couples who did have children now have access to funded treatment.

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