Across the country an average of 10.8 cycles of in-vitro fertilisation were provided by the NHS per 100,000 population in 1998, compared with 12.7 cycles in 1997. In more than half of health authorities the waiting time from referral to treatment was more than one year.
The survey, by the College of Health, shows that obtaining treatment is a postcode lottery for the one in seven couples who need it. While health authorities in Scotland provided 21.5 cycles per 100,000 people last year the figure was just 0.3 in the South West. Waiting times also vary, with some couples seeing a gynaecologist 1-2 weeks after being referred while others wait for three years.
Caroline Spelman, Conservative MP for Meriden, said: "The National Health Service should be a national service. However, the report shows this is clearly not the case."
Mrs Spelman, who led a Parliamentary adjournment debate on infertility last year, said: "Most patients are either forced to seek private treatment or contribute to some of the cost, placing couples under great financial and emotional strain."