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Free access to IVF

PUBLISHED: 16:40 28 April 2009 | UPDATED: 13:48 03 July 2010

COUPLES in Norfolk desperate for a child are being given new hope by the launch of a ground-breaking initiative that will provide free access to a comprehensive package of fertility treatment.

COUPLES in Norfolk desperate for a child are being given new hope by the launch of a ground-breaking initiative that will provide free access to a comprehensive package of fertility treatment.

From May 1, the NHS East of England will be the first region in the country to fund all eligible couples for up to six attempts at achieving a pregnancy with fertility treatment, thus removing the current IVF postcode lottery where couples in adjacent towns are offered widely differing services.

The initiative has been warmly welcomed by Mike Macnamee, Chief Executive of Bourn Hall Clinic which was established by IVF pioneers Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards.

“It was always the dream of Steptoe and Edwards when they established Bourn Hall as the world's first IVF clinic, that treatment would be available to all who needed it. We are delighted that the East of England is taking a lead in making IVF more widely accessible and creating a clearer and more consistent treatment pathway across the Primary Care Trusts.”

To qualify for treatment couples must meet specific eligibility criteria. In particular women must be aged between 23 and 39 with no children from the current relationship.

Women must also be registered with a GP in one of the six counties in the East of England.

In the general population 70pc of couples will conceive naturally within 18 months of trying for a baby and 90pc after two years. The chance of natural conception can be improved through greater awareness of the woman's monthly cycle and by making lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking, improving diet and losing weight.

Couples that have already taken these measures and not conceived, or have a diagnosed cause of infertility, should see their GP to discuss the next steps.

GPs will refer couples with fertility issues to the James Paget University Hospital or the relevant hospital where checks such as hormone tests will be undertaken to try and identify the cause of infertility. The couple will then be able to have treatment at a specialist fertility clinic.

Mike Macnamee believes that simplifying the pathway (from GP, through hospital, to Bourn Hall) and clarifying the eligibility criteria will also reduce stress for patients.

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