IVF provision in Northern Ireland is far below that of the rest of the UK (save for a few very small areas in England). Here, one cycle is offered to patients. Although sometimes described as a ‘full’ cycle of IVF, patients in Northern Ireland are only able to access funding for one episode of ovarian stimulation and the transfer of one fresh and one frozen embryo. This contrasts sharply with national guidelines, which define a full cycle as one episode of ovarian stimulation and the transfer of any resultant fresh and frozen embryo(s).
That said, unlike the other UK nations, couples who have children living with them (in any capacity) have equitable access to services. The upper Body Mass Index (BMI) score is also more generous at 35 (rather than 30).
In order to qualify for IVF/ICSI treatment patients must also have a diagnosed cause for their infertility or have been infertile without a recognised cause for three years. The female partner must be aged under 40.
Since the general election in 2015, FF has met with a number of MLAs with the overall objective of securing interest and motivation to promote a members debate at the assembly for late autumn. FF has also met with the Secondary Care Division of the Department of Health to gain its support and will continue to work closely with Fertility Network UK and MLAs to campaign for policy makers to consider funding a second cycle of IVF treatment.
Fertility Fairness served as the secretariat of the former All Party Group, and worked to ensure that policy makers are well aware of the importance of increasing provision in Northern Ireland.
Sharon Davidson had a productive meeting with representatives from Sinn Fein in Derry at the start of January, 2017. Pictured is Maeve McLaughlin, Raymond McCartney MLA and Councillors Patricia Logue and Eric McGinley. Sinn Fein support the campaign to improve fertility services in N. Ireland to include a move (in the interim) to 2 IVF treatment cycles (followed by a move to 3 NHS treatment cycles) on the NHS along with other recommendations in line with NICE Guidance on Fertility Treatment, 2013.
In December 2016 Sharon Davidson met Gerry Carroll, MLA Black Mountain, Belfast and member of the Health Committee. Gerry voiced his support for the campaign to lobby for more than one NHS IVF treatment cycle in line with NICE Guidance. Fertility Network UK wants the Department of Health to consider a move to 2 full IVF treatment cycles in the first instance. We need the Health Committee to ask the Department to prioritise a full review of fertility services without undue delay.
Sharon Davidson with representatives from Here(NI) and the Rainbow project. The Fertility Network is working with both charities to help raise awareness of the need for greater access to IVF treatment in N. Ireland for same sex couples.
During September 2016, Sharon Davidson met Kellie Armstrong MLA. Kellie will help Fertility Network UK with their campaign in N. Ireland for more IVF treatment cycles for eligible couples in line with NICE Guidance.