The importance of the Government's acceptance of the guidelines issed by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice) should not be underestimated. For the first time a government has recognised that infertility is a disorder that may require treatment by IVF within the NHS, but the Government has simply failed to fund these treatments. Paying for IVF is, however, not the only problem: the costs of caring for IVF twins are high. It is reasonable for the NHS to limit women at high risk of multiple birth to one embryo. In Manchester there is still a postcode lottery for IVF treatment. Nevertheless the majority (62 per cent) of primary care trusts (PCTs) are purchasing three cycles, 31 per cent a single cycle and 7 per cent two. No PCT has indicated that it will be reducing the number of cycles and all have waiting lists in excess of two years.
The UK leads the world with the regulation of IVF treatment and embryo research. Although the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act is imperfect, it is not fundamentally flawed. Regulation has been an unqualified success and any future Act should build on the strengths of the original.
Dr Brian Lieberman
Director of Reproductive Medicine
St Mary's Hospital Manchester