Women should be paid to donate their eggs to overcome a critical shortage in the UK which leads to long waiting lists at fertility clinics, specialists said.

The removal of anonymity from egg and sperm donors in Britain in April last year has triggered a fall in donors, forcing patients to seek treatment abroad.

In the US, women are paid up to $10,000 (£5,300) to donate eggs and waiting lists for treatment are rare. In Britain, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) ruled last year that egg donation should be unpaid, following public consultation.

Pippa Morris, the donor recruitment manager at the National Gamete Donation Trust, said: "There is a shortage of both egg and sperm donors. The average wait across the country is two years. We know there are recipients for whom time is running out, who might be aged 42 and just diagnosed and have been told time is not on their side, who go abroad to get around the wait for donor eggs."

Under HFEA rules, egg donors in Britain are entitled to compensation of up to £250 for lost earnings, plus travel and other expenses. Women having IVF are permitted to share eggs in return for discounts worth up to half the cost of treatment, at least £1,500.