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'Wrong' to offer single women state-funded IVF

MPs have claimed it is "wrong" single women are receiving publicly-funded fertility treatment when couples 'in stable relationships' are denied.

In an investigation by The Telegraph, 24 of 135 PCTs that responded to the newspaper confirmed they offer IVF services to single women.

Criteria for access to IVF and related fertility treatment from the South Central Specialised Commissioning Group, which covers 10 PCTs in southern England that currently offer fertility treatment to single women, states: 

"Sub fertility treatment will be funded for women in same-sex couples or women not in a partnership if those seeking treatment are demonstrably sub fertile."

"Women in same sex couples and women not in a partnership should have access to professional experts in reproductive medicine to obtain advice on the options available to enable them to proceed along this route if they so wish."

In June this year, an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report, led by Conservative MP Gareth Johnson, showed 73% of PCTs failed to meet NICE guidelines that recommend up to three cycles of IVF are offered to 'eligible couples' where the woman is aged between 23 and 39.

The report notes there is also "widespread evidence" of PCTs adding extra conditions on infertile couples "that prevent them from obtaining treatment".

Five trusts were found to be offering no IVF services at all - Warrington, West Sussex, Stockport, North Staffordshire and North Yorkshire and York.

Since the publication of the report, The Telegraph reported NHS West Sussex decided to start funding IVF again.

Labour MP Frank Field said: "It's clearly wrong that while couples in stable relationships can't get IVF and in other areas, single women can.

"It's really important that government ministers speak up for children who are the ones left out of this. It needs someone in a position of authority to reflect what most taxpayers think."

Are PCTs right to offer state-funded IVF to single women?

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“I am a single woman who has paid for IVF treatment privately and have a beautiful son who is happy in the middle of a big and supportive network of family and friends. I planned financially and structurally to make this happen. I have never claimed benefits and resent the stereotyping of single women.

I don't think that any blanket discrimination against prospective single parents is acceptable. Surely access to this expensive and emotionally draining treatment should be decided on a case by case basis? If you examined individual case studies I would imagine that many people's attitudes to this would change. Any prospective parent should be counseled: asked to consider how they will provide for a child financially and emotionally by providing strong support networks and male role models. I don't believe that the single mothers who are pursuing IVF are the same demographic as the stereotypical much maligned single mothers. If a single woman pursues IVF / donor insemination to become pregnant she is demonstrating a responsible attitude to becoming a parent... not embarking on a relationship that she knows will very likely fail. Becoming a single parent by careful choice is highly likely to lead to excellent parenting. Single people are encouraged to foster and adopt so it seems that in some circumstances at least single people are celebrated as good potential parents.” - Catherine, London

"Yes tend to agree, single women should by and large be exluded from NHS IVF; but what about women whose partners/husbands have died - especially in the relatively recent case where a man had his sperm frozen prior to treatment for testicular cancer and then later died?  Are we to deny this woman the chance to have her late husband's baby?  Especially since she was in a good financial position due to his death? I am sure that those making the decisions (in areas where IVF is available) of who is suitable and who is not are going to take this into consideration? I would like to think that they are able to assess the situation fully and would be able to judge why a potential mother would want IVF in the first place?" - Name and address supplied

"Yes, I think married person or someone in a stable relationship should be given priority to single person on the NHS for IVF" - Hilda Singh, Middlesex

"The rules for justifying IVF should be no less stringent than those used for adoption. This means no single parent families" - Stephen Ellwood, Cambridge