Patients are switching GP practices to ‘get around’ rationing of services like IVF

by | Aug 3, 2019 | UK Fertility News

Patients are switching GP practices to get around the cruel rationing of NHS treatments such as IVF, claims health minister. Jackie Doyle-Price said disparity in health services in the UK was ‘unacceptable’. She claims patients are signing up with surgeries far from home to access IVF. CCGs should offer three rounds of IVF to under 40s, but rarely do, figures show. By Vanessa Chalmers Health Reporter For Mailonline

Jackie Doyle-Price criticised the ‘unacceptable’ disparity in health treatments across the UK for creating postcode lotteries.

She claims women are signing up with surgeries further away from their own home because their own CCG does not offer enough rounds of IVF. 

Ms Doyle-Price said her own CCG has recently cut the number of courses from three to two – going against official guidance. 

Patients are switching GP practices to ‘get around’ rationing of services like IVF, health minister Jackie Doyle-Price has claimed

Patients are switching GP practices to ‘get around’ rationing of services like IVF, health minister Jackie Doyle-Price has claimed

Speaking in the House of Commons last week, she said: ‘The postcode lottery is not acceptable, and patients manage to get around it.

‘My local CCG, having funded three courses of IVF, has had to reduce that to two because demand has doubled owing to the lack of provision in neighbouring CCGs.’

Ms Doyle-Price later confirmed she meant patients switch to a GP operating under a different CCG that offers more rounds of IVF. 

Ms Doyle-Price was responding to a question in parliament from MP Rachel Maclean, who said: ‘Provision of IVF in Redditch has been reduced from two cycles to one.

‘I warmly welcome the work that the minister has done to increase equity across the country.

‘But what more can she do to address the postcode lottery in this and other areas, such as hip and knee surgery?’

CCGs, or clinical commissioning groups, are the local boards in charge of funding for GP surgeries and hospitals in the area.

They ration procedures, including hip replacements, cataract surgery and diabetic glucose monitors, in order to save money to redirect it elsewhere.  

Patients can switch GP practice to one that is not in their area under the out-of-area patient choice scheme which came into effect in 2015.

GP practices can register new patients who live outside the catchment area, without any obligation to provide home visits.


A report by Fertility Fairness released in October 2017 provided a ‘league table’ of NHS-funded IVF provision in England.

Top of the league (providing 3 cycles and least strict criteria):

  • NHS Bury 
  • NHS Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale
  • NHS Oldham 
  • NHS Tameside and Glossop  

Bottom of the league (providing none): 

  • NHS Basildon and Brentwood
  • NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough 
  • NHS Croydon 
  • NHS Herts Valleys 
  • NHS Mid Essex 
  • NHS North East Essex 
  • NHS South Norfolk 

The full table can be seen here.

Approximately 99,000 people are registered with a GP this way, according to NHS data.

However, it is not clear how many women may be using the scheme to benefit from more IVF cycles.

Dr Richard Vautrey, of the British Medical Association, said: ‘The BMA has always been clear that patients should have access to all NHS services wherever they live. 

He added that the BMA appreciate commissioners ‘are under pressure to meet rising demand despite increasingly stretched resources’.

However, Dr Vautrey said: ‘National access to services should be equitable, clear and non-discriminatory.

‘If, as a result of CCG financial pressure and cuts to services, patients feel they have to switch to another CCG to access treatments that are not available in their own area, it not only underlines the unfairness in these commissioning “postcode lotteries”, but also risks destabilising the way local services run.’ 

Guidelines from watchdog the National Institute for Heath and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend eligible women under 40 should be offered three full IVF cycles.

However, figures from 2018 reveal that only 13 per cent of areas in England offer three cycles. This is down from 24 per cent in 2013.

The campaign group Fertility Fairness highlighted how, in some parts of the country, couples have to pay thousands of pounds for private treatment, while other trusts provide a full service funded by the taxpayer.


In-vitro fertilisation, known as IVF, is a medical procedure in which a woman has an already-fertilised egg inserted into her womb to become pregnant.

It is used when couples are unable to conceive naturally, and a sperm and egg are removed from their bodies and combined in a laboratory before the embryo is inserted into the woman.

Once the embryo is in the womb, the pregnancy should continue as normal.

The procedure can be done using eggs and sperm from a couple or those from donors. 

Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that IVF should be offered on the NHS to women under 43 who have been trying to conceive through regular unprotected sex for two years.

People can also pay for IVF privately, which costs an average of £3,348 for a single cycle, according to figures published in January 2018, and there is no guarantee of success.

The NHS says success rates for women under 35 are about 29 per cent, with the chance of a successful cycle reducing as they age.

Around eight million babies are thought to have been born due to IVF since the first ever case, British woman Louise Brown, was born in 1978.

More articles

Surrogacy UK welcomes Law Commission Consultation Paper on Reforming UK’s Outdated Surrogacy Laws

On 6th June, at a conference entitled ‘Reforming Surrogacy Laws: Future Directions and Possibilities’, the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission will launch their public consultation on reforming the UK’s outdated surrogacy laws. Surrogacy UK has long campaigned for legal reform and was consulted by the Law Commission in the preparation of their proposals.

Domicile and Surrogacy: The 5 W’s

“Where is your home?” seems like a simple question. But in our multi-cultural society, that is not always so. For intended parents in a surrogacy arrangement, it is one of the most important questions to ask.

Surrogacy UK Code of Practice update

The HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) govern and regulate all fertility treatments that take place in licensed fertility centres throughout the UK. The code of practice has recently been updated and we are awaiting the official issue of the 9th edition so that we can implement this into our clinical practice.

NHS Funding and Surrogacy

There’s been much discussion in recent days about the story in the Daily Mail about a same sex male couple in the UK who have received public funding for IVF treatment to try to create embryos using their own gametes and donor eggs.

Fertility regulator calls for clinics to be more open about treatment add-ons

The HFEA, the UK fertility regulator, has called for a change in how patients are offered optional fertility treatment add-ons.

Surrogacy Survey 2018 Results

Surrogates do not support calls for commercial surrogacy in the UK. Over 70 per cent of surrogates in the UK believe they should only be allowed to claim expenses when they carry a child for another couple, the UK’s largest ever survey into surrogacy has found.

Surrogacy UK welcomes individuals who want to start families

Surrogacy UK welcomes individuals who want to start families as UK Parliament votes to end three decades of discrimination.

Research findings from a longitudinal study of surrogacy families in the UK

Around the year 2000, a group of researchers, headed by Professor Susan Golombok, began a study of families created using surrogacy. I have worked on the project from its beginnings, when children in the study were one year old infants. Since then, our team has revisited the families five times and last saw them when the children were aged 14.

Host or Straight Surrogacy – Choosing your path

If you’re reading this then you will have most likely either made the choice that surrogacy is the path to parenthood that you wish to take, or you are close to taking that first big step.