Findings of a comprehensive patient survey carried out into more than 200 private and NHS clinics across the UK has revealed a catalogue of failings.
These include staff not warning women about the side effects of fertility drugs, couples being refused treatment by clinics obsessed with performance targets and doctors withholding important information.
In one case, the husband of a patient had to race through heavy traffic with an incubator carrying his wife's eggs plugged into the cigarette lighter after staff told him they did not cover the cost of transfer between clinics. Other patients complained of feeling "abandoned" after a treatment cycle failed and the news was broken to them at work.
Ivfworld, the independent internet-based patient support and research group, said its survey exposed the truth behind Britain's fertility industry, with many patients enduring inadequate treatment in silence for fear complaints will cause friction between them and staff.
"Many patients have hidden complaints because they are afraid of voicing them," said a spokeswoman.
"In some cases, staff make it clear their time is valuable and treat patients as if they are doing them a favour by talking to them."
The 20 clinics that received the highest ratings included the Regional Fertility Centre in Belfast and the Hull IVF unit in East Yorkshire.
These scored highly because patients said they had a good overall experience while undergoing treatment.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the fertility regulator, said that it was concerned about the quality of care that patients received especially as they were often paying for treatment.
"Going through fertility treatment is an extremely emotive and stressful time for patients, and their experience at a clinic is not just influenced by the results of their treatment but also by their personal experiences," said a spokesman.
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