Enter the lottery, win a baby: Why your postcode decides whether you qualify for IVF

Up to one in six couples struggles with infertility, and the WHO has officially classified it as a disease. But IVF funding criteria is so complex that eligibility has become a postcode lottery. Leslie Leuenberger meets the families and doctors fighting for equal access

Monday 07 January 2019 19:03 GMT
The WHO has officially classed infertility as a disease
The WHO has officially classed infertility as a disease (Getty/iStock)

You meet someone, you fall in love, you spend some years together and eventually decide you want to grow a family. It’s the seemingly simple path many of us take. However, according to the campaign group Fertility Fairness one in six couples in the UK suffers from infertility.

Sally and her partner – who wish to stay anonymous – are one of these couples. In 2016, after having tried naturally for two years without success, Sally got diagnosed with “unexplained infertility”. This means that not even specialists can find a cause for the couple’s inability to conceive. Sally, 39 at the time, and her partner decided to give IVF a go. The area they live in offers one full cycle of treatment to women up to 42, funded by the local NHS trust. At least that is what they were counting on, until their doctor called them into his office.

“He sat us down, saying he was so angry, so upset for having to break the bad news to us,” Sally recalls. The local clinical commissioning group (CCG) had made budget cuts. From one day to the other the age limit for IVF funding had dropped to 35. Thus, Sally wasn’t eligible for a free cycle of treatment anymore. “I started crying, thinking, where will we get the money from?”

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