Official figures expose Britain's worst fertility clinics

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WOMEN OVER 38 years old who need fertility treatment can, for the first time, choose clinics which will give them a better chance of having a baby.

Official figures, for the 75 in vitro fertilisation (IVF) clinics in Britain, released today but seen in advance by The Independent , show for the first time live birth rates for women over 38. The figures have been compiled by age because of concerns that older women, who have more trouble conceiving, are being refused treatment at some clinics which are concerned about preserving their overall success rates. Treatment of older women is highly controversial because of low success rates and concern about the welfare of children born to women who are so close to retirement.

The success rates of individual clinics, to be released by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, show that some, such as University Hospital Aintree, Liverpool, and St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, have a zero success rate with older women while others have rates close to natural conception rates of 20 to 25 per cent.

The Sheffield Fertility Centre has the highest rate for older women in the country at 19.4 per cent, followed by the Chaucer Hospital in Canterbury, Kent, at 18.8 per cent. The HFEA's 1999 The Patients' Guide to IVF Clinics shows that while some clinics carry out a third of their treatments on older women, others hardly treated any last year.

More than a third of all treatments at the Lister Hospital, London, and the London Fertility Centre, are carried out on women over 38 compared with 11 per cent at the Princess Royal Hospital IVF unit in Hull.

For women under 38, advances in test-tube baby treatment have boosted success rates to almost twice that achieved by natural conception. The top 10 clinics in the country now have success rates of over 26 per cent.

The Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre, London, has the highest success rate for younger women with 43.9 per cent of treatments resulting in a baby being born alive.

The BMI Priory Hospital in Birmingham, the Lister Hospital, London, and St James' Hospital Leeds all have success rates of over 30 per cent.

Salford Royal IVF and Fertility Centre, based at the Hope Hospital in Salford had the lowest live birth rate in the country for women under 38, with only 5.6 per cent of treatment cycles conducted at the clinic resulting in a live birth.

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