Sheffield woman denied IVF treatment because her partner already had a child from a different relationship

A Sheffield resident has been denied IVF treatment on the NHS, despite meeting the infertility requirements set out by the Department of Health, because her partner has a child from a previous relationship.

Monday, 18th October 2021, 12:42 pm

Rebecca, who has been trying to conceive for seven years and has experienced two ectopic pregnancies and one miscarriage, raised this issue with her MP, Olivia Blake.

The Sheffield Hallam MP has now written to the minister responsible for women’s health, Gillian Keegan, to call out this inconsistency and postcode lottery in provision.

Rebecca said: "I cannot describe how difficult the last seven years have been, for myself, my husband and our entire family.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, The Jessop Wing. There is a fertility clinic at the hospital

"By speaking up about our experience I really hope the Government steps in and changes the guidance, so that everyone, wherever they live, can access IVF treatment when they need it.”

Rebecca has now resorted to crowdfunding for a round of IVF treatment, but is already distressed by what she will do next if the first round doesn’t work. Her consultant previously informed her she was unable to appeal her decision.

The level of provision of NHS fertility treatment in England is decided by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

Whilst CCGs have a legal duty to have regard to National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines - which recommends that couples who have been unsuccessful in conceiving after two years are offered three full cycles of treatment for women under 40, and one cycle for women between 40 and 42 - there is still a huge variation in the criteria that is applied with regard to existing children.

Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake. Picture Scott Merrylees

According to Fertility Network UK’s 2017 Fertility Fairness Audit, 91 per cent of clinical commission groups do not allow couples to access NHS IVF if one of the couple has a child from a previous relationship.

In 2019 the Government said CCGs should make decisions about fertility treatment based on clinical infertility and not on relationship status. Despite this, a huge inequality in provision remains.

Olivia is asking the minister to include in the up and coming Women’s Health Strategy a commitment to update the NICE guidelines, so that CCGs are required to provide IVF treatment “to those who meet the infertility requirements, regardless of their relationship status.”

She hopes this will end the inequality in provision. She is also writing to the Sheffield CCG to appeal the decision.

In the letter, addressed to Gillian Keegan MP, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake, said: “Access to NHS treatment should be according to medical need, not one's postcode, so it is vital that we address this inconsistency as a matter of urgency.”

A spokesperson for NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We’re unable to comment on individual cases. In 2020, CCGs across Yorkshire and the Humber agreed to work together to update the joint access to infertility treatment policy, in light of new NICE guidance and other policy changes. The shared policy sets out who is eligible for specialist fertility services and states that neither partner should have any living children (this includes adopted children but not fostered) from that or any previous relationship.”