Britain performs worst in fertility treatment table

Fertility treatment is more difficult to obtain in Britain than in nine other European countries, a survey has found.

Provision in Denmark was most widespread, with more than 1,800 cycles of assisted reproduction treatment performed for every million inhabitants, in 2000. Britain came last in the league table, with about 585 treatments for a million people.

Professor Karl Nygren, of the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, who carried out the pan-European survey, said that Europe performed about 60 per cent of all medical treatments involving assisted reproduction technology (Art), although some European nations conducted far more treatment cycles for their population size than others.

"Denmark is way ahead of everyone else with 1,826 cycles per million of the population performed in 2000. Out of all the children born in Denmark that year, 3.7 per cent were Art babies," Professor Nygren said.

"We think that Denmark has nearly reached saturation point, with hardly anyone who wants fertility treatment having to wait," he said. The situation is very different in the UK, where fertility treatment on the NHS can be difficult to find.

"The procedure itself is well accepted in the UK, and the laws are not very restrictive. What is restricted is resources. People cannot afford it. I predict that, were things more generous, you would have approximately the same figures [as Denmark]," he said. "The explanation is money, period. Availability means money."

In Europe overall, there was a 37 per cent increase in IVF treatment cycles between 1997 and 2000, but Britain stagnated at about 585 cycles per million of the population during the same period.