NHS should provide reciprocal IVF so all same-sex couples have equal opportunity to have children, says Sir Vince Cable

Exclusive: Sir Vince says: ''The emotional pull of shared motherhood is clearly strong and should be an opportunity for all female couples, not just those who can afford it' 

Sir Vince Cable is today calling for reciprocal IVF to be made available on the NHS to ensure that financially disadvantaged same-sex couples have equal opportunities to have children.

In a letter seen by The Independent to Sir Andrew Dillon, the chief executive of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the Liberal Democrat leader urges a review of guidance for female couples trying for a baby.

Marking the 70th anniversary of the NHS, Sir Vince claims that without this change the health service cannot be described as a “universal service”.

Reciprocal IVF is where one woman effectively donates her eggs while the other carries the foetus to birth, but it is currently unavailable on the NHS.

Sir Vince calls on NICE — responsible for setting fertility guidance and recommendations on who should have access to IVF — to update its policy and make a specific provision for three cycles of treatment for reciprocal IVF to made available of the NHS.

In his letter he writes: “As you might be aware, reciprocal IVF – also known as ‘shared motherhood’ - is unavailable on the NHS due to NICE’s guidance making no provision for this process.

“Reciprocal IVF is increasingly popular among female couples because it allows partners to be physically involved in the pregnancy – one supplying the egg, the other carrying the foetus to birth. But the process is expensive at around £6,000 per treatment.

He continued: “The emotional pull of shared motherhood is clearly strong and should be an opportunity for all female couples, not just those who can afford it.

“We are marking the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the NHS – but we cannot describe this as a universal system if, even unintentionally, poorer same sex couples do not have equal opportunities to have children.

“At the earliest opportunity, please review your guidance and update it to make a specific provision for three cycles of treatment for reciprocal IVF to be made available on the NHS. Such guidance would put shared motherhood in line with similar processes for couple trying for children.”

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