An important debate on Fertility Treatment recently took place in the Houses of Parliament [Tuesday 1st November 2022] shining a light on an often under-reported issue.
The Member of Parliament for the Cities of London and Westminster, Nickie Aiken, brought forward the debate in Westminster Hall to mark National Fertility Awareness Week, highlighting an issue that affects hundreds of thousands of people of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Fertility treatment is often an emotionally draining, costly, risky and long, with figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the UK fertility regulator, showing it takes an average of three cycles of invitro fertilisation to achieve success.
Steve Brine MP has previously called for a “step-change” in IVF treatment offered to couples on the NHS. Speaking in his Winchester Post in Winter 2021, the MP said; ““NICE state that if you are unable to have children without medical help, women under 40 should be able to access three full cycles of NHS IVF.”
“However, the vast majority of the 1 in 6 couples diagnosed with fertility problems cannot access three cycles because of local decisions. We need a step-change to level up access and we need the NHS to recognise that fertility is a medical issue. Three strikes and you’re out is actually rather cruel so I want to test how far Ministers are prepared to change the system.”
The Member for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford reinforced this point during the Westminster Hall debate, doubling down on his criticism of local decision making which “often means they often don't even get two.”
Mr Brine went on to ask; “Wouldn't she say that we need to, dare I say 'level up', fertility treatment across our constituencies?”
The Hampshire MP’s urge was welcomed by his colleagues in the debate with others raising concerns that due to pressures on the NHS, many couples look towards the private sector bringing huge costs which can lead to diminished savings and re-mortgaged homes.
MP’s in the debate also highlighted concerns over the effect of fertility treatment on employment, whereas there is employment legislation to do with pregnancy, maternity and paternity leave, there is no enshrined legislation that compels employers to give employees time off work for fertility treatment or an initial consultation.