Natasha Kendall tried to have a baby for many years. After two miscarriages from natural pregnancies, she had one cycle of IVF in the NHS. In Exeter, where Ms. Kendall lives, she is entitled to one bicycle.
Kendall, 33, who works for the NHS, and her partner Andy Whedon, 35, had no choice but to turn to private fertility treatment, which she says costs more than £5,000 between consultations, medications and the cycle itself. . This, too, ended in a miscarriage – and the couple is gearing up for another attempt.
“We want to keep trying, but it’s about finding that money,” Ms Kendall said. “It will take several months to raise funds. Luckily we were able to freeze the embryo from the last cycle but if this one doesn’t work it will be another £6,000.”
Praful Nargund of the ABC IVF clinic said the regional disparity was due to shortcomings in the current NHS IVF funding model.
“The current model means that each individual clinical team determines the level of support they provide to women and couples in need of fertility treatment,” he explained. “Some CCGs provide the recommended three cycles of treatment, while others provide only one cycle or none at all.”
Regional disparity forced patients like Ms. Kendall to seek costly private treatment, which meant families “were not given the opportunity to become parents because of where they live,” Mr. Nargund added.
Women seeking IVF told The Olx Praca that costs typically reach £10,000 with no guarantee of success. Some clinics have a “pay back” system whereby patients only pay if they are successful, however they can charge up to £20,000.
With inflation, fuel prices and electricity bills skyrocketing, people like Ms. Kendall are finding the prospect of providing additional cycles increasingly difficult. She added that she and her partner have already spent part of their inheritance on medical treatment and are close to debt.
Many are turning to loans and credit cards to finance treatment, in part because couples urgently need money to get treatment as soon as possible.
“With the cost of living rising, we are struggling to figure out how we will pay for our next cycle,” she said. “Rising gasoline prices have already hit our finances hard. Most likely, we will have to take out a loan for another cycle.
“We say no to many life events. We haven’t been abroad since 2018 and we’re not doing regular activities like having dinner on weekends.”
ABC IVF called on the government to set a price cap on the amount the NHS can charge for providing IVF. Mr Nargrund said: “We believe that with the right will, three cycles of NHS-funded IVF could be offered across the country without breaking the current budget.”
“Our savings are exhausted”
Lorna Watkins, 31, from South Wales, has already spent over £30,000 on IVF treatment, draining her savings. According to her, she and her husband now live “from paycheck to paycheck.”
“If this round fails, we simply cannot afford another one,” Ms. Watkins added. “The savings we worked so hard for are gone and we’re no closer to having the family we so desperately want.”
IVF treatment is often an emotionally difficult process. Gwenda Burns of the charity Fertility Network UK reported that 90% of people undergoing fertility treatment suffer from depression and 42% report suicide.
“Infertility treatment should be properly funded. This disease deserves the help of the NHS, like any other clinical condition,” she said.
“If this is not the case, this lack of assistance, combined with the current cost of living crisis, will mean that some people will be denied the opportunity to become parents. This is a sad legacy for a country that pioneered IVF.”