Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/313/11648
Will new IVF proposals end the postcode lottery?
COUPLES FACING problems having a baby will be delighted by proposals to offer free In-vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment on the NHS.
Jane Nellist, Coventry
One in six couples experience some problems with conception but it's a postcode lottery when it comes to infertility treatment. Some areas - particularly Wales, the South-west and South-east - currently offer little or no access to IVF treatment on the NHS.
80% of all treatments currently take place in private clinics. Many working class couples either give up the idea of treatment and the chance of having a baby or go into debt to pay the high costs of private treatments.
A single IVF treatment can cost thousands of pounds and there is no guarantee of success which pushes up the cost.
The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) proposals are intended to come into force next year. However it's not that simple.
Many women could be ineligible by the time these changes are bought in, because they are 'too old' according to the criteria (currently women are treated on average between the ages of 23-39).
Many women now start a family much later for many reasons, including ensuring they're financially secure (huge student debts to pay off won't help many women!).
If women don't start trying to conceive until they're over 30 they may not be able to access help if there are infertility problems.
Unless new funding is made available hospitals and primary care trusts will simply shift resources from other services.
Expert nurses and embryologists to deal with these procedures will take time to train so the NHS will be forced to look to private hospitals who will keep making huge profits out of people's suffering.
Radical measures to bring the private hospitals and clinics into the NHS must be adopted.
There should be much more research into the causes of infertility, which is increasing rapidly in both men and women. Some research shows a direct correlation between increased infertility and growing dependence on chemicals in our food and our environment.
What is needed is a vast research project to find out why couples have difficulty conceiving and what other effects are there on humans.
IVF is a relatively new procedure. In the 25 years since the first 'test-tube' baby thousands of couples have benefited from these advancements.
For those couples experiencing the anguish of not being able to conceive without help, treatments should be fully funded.
After all, we could solve all the NHS's problems if we nationalised the private health care and pharmaceutical companies and redirected expenditure for the Ministry of Death to the Ministry of Health!
In The Socialist 6 September 2003: