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expert reaction to a report on human fertility treatment trends and statistics in the UK for 2018

The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) have published their annual report on human fertility treatment trends and statistics in the UK, covering 2018.


Dr Jane Stewart, Chair of British Fertility Society, said:

“This newest publication focusses on the most relevant areas. It is good to see some cumulative data included and it is heartening to see ongoing overall increases in live births with a corresponding decrease in multiple pregnancy. It is however salutary to see the marked decline of NHS funding. Our government made a special case for fertility treatments to restart as health services began to re-open during COVID restrictions. It would be good to see proper funding backing up that support.”


Professor Adam Balen, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Spokesperson on Reproductive Medicine and past chair of the British Fertility Society, said:

“The latest statistics from the HFEA show a continued increase in the chance of having a baby with IVF and confirm once more that multiple pregnancy rates can be kept low without any reduction in the chance of a pregnancy by the transfer of a single embryo.

“What is hugely disappointing is the continued fall in NHS-funded cycles. In 2018 in Scotland, 60% of treatment was NHS-funded, compared to 45% in Northern Ireland, 41% in Wales and 35% in England. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the level of funding is set nationally. In England, funding is locally determined by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), leading to considerable regional variation in funding, as seen in Table 2 in the report. In England, many CCGs have reduced funding for fertility treatment and, as a result, the share of IVF cycles funded by the NHS has declined across most regions. The biggest decreases were seen in the East of England as well as Yorkshire and the Humber, decreasing the England-wide share to 35% (41% in 2013).

“Whilst the NICE guidance states that all eligible couples should be entitled to 3 full cycles (including the use of frozen embryos) and we know, using latest statistics, that this will give them an 80-85% chance of having a baby – and indeed many will not require the full three cycles, with on average 30% conceiving with one cycle (and in the best cases maybe 40-45%) – IVF is seen to be an easy target. But infertility is a serious medical condition, resulting in huge stress and distress and caused itself by a large number of different medical problems. Indeed, it is the second commonest reason for women of reproductive years to visit their GP. IVF is cost effective and has shown to be an economic benefit to society.”



‘Fertility treatment 2018: trends and figures’, a report by the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), was published online on the HFEA’s website at 09:30 UK time on Tuesday 30th June 2020.


Declared interests

Prof Adam Balen: “No specific conflicts of interest.”

None others received.

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