Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Briefing

The hidden costs of infertility treatment

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 22 May 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2204
  1. Sally Howard, journalist
  1. London, UK
  1. sal{at}

Most in vitro fertilisation in the UK takes place outside the NHS, and practitioners and patients want clearer information about the costs and benefits of treatments. Sally Howard reports

Why do patients seeking IVF go private?

Annually, an estimated £68m (€78m; $92m) is spent on in vitro fertilisation (IVF) by the NHS.1 Since 2013, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has stipulated that women who meet the criteria should be offered three cycles. By 2017, however, only 27 of England’s 200 clinical commissioning groups complied.23 Some European countries partly or fully fund IVF to six cycles.

“UK commissioning is unfair,” said Sarah Norcross of the charity Progress Educational Trust, which wants better choices for people affected by infertility, at a panel discussion it co-organised with the British Fertility Society. “Scotland offers a service in line with NICE guidelines, with 60% of cycles funded, whereas in England, state funded treatment has dipped below 40%, with huge variance …

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