UK health service pushed to offer fertility treatments to women over 40
But critics of the idea say it's unclear if the National Health Service can afford to cover more of the costly treatments.
Tue, May 22 2012 at 5:22 AM
Photo: Waltraud Grubitzsch/AFP
LONDON — The British National Health Service (NHS) should extend the upper age limit for women to have IVF treatment by three years to 42, a health watchdog said this week.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) added that IVF should be offered to gay and lesbian couples for the first time in new draft guidelines up for public consultation.
Raising the age limit could see thousands more women each year given the chance to become mothers.
But critics said it was not clear how the NHS could afford to extend the guidelines covering the costly treatments. One round of IVF can cost thousands of pounds.
Under current guidelines, only women aged between 23 and 39 are eligible for IVF on the NHS.
Gedis Grudzinskas, emeritus professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Barts and the Royal London Hospital, told The Daily Telegraph that the new guidance reflects "social changes" — but that the financial aspect could not be ignored.
"How do we reconcile the changes in society and equality of access to healthcare, with the economic predicament?" he said.
NICE deputy chief executive Dr Gill Leng said that since the original guidelines were published in 2004, there had been "many advances in both treatments and the understanding of different techniques.
"For this update we are using the latest statistical and clinical evidence to make sure that treatment for infertility is offered at a time and in a way which is most likely to result in pregnancy," she added.
NICE examines the cost effectiveness of treatments.
The new guidelines also examined the number of embryos to be implanted, and recommended that people preparing for cancer treatment or with infectious diseases such as HIV or Hepatitis B should also be given access to IVF.
Copyright 2012 AFP European Edition