Scotland’s IVF treatment is the ‘gold standard’, say fertility experts – HeraldScotland

SCOTLAND leads the UK in NHS-funded IVF treatment and it is a frustration that there is no willingness by the UK Government to achieve the same level of service south of the Border, a London-based fertility expert has said.

Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Educational Trust, which campaigns to improve access to treatment, praised the Scottish Government for the gradual, sustained improvements that she said had led to the country providing a gold standard service.

In Scotland, women under 40 can have three funded rounds of IVF treatment and one between the ages of 40 and 42, if all the relevant criteria is fulfilled.

In England, treatment varies widely because there are more than 200 commissioning centres, while in Wales only one round is funded.

The success rate is also higher in Scotland. For women under the age of 38, the live birth rate is 34 per cent per embryo, compared to 29% across the UK while there are fewer multiple births, which can post risks for both mother and baby.

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Ms Norcross said couples and single women are more likely to pay for treatment in England, while NHS treatment is also more likely to be outsourced to private clinics.

She said part of the reason for Scotlands higher success rate is because there is greater sharing ofbest practice between the four NHS centres in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

In Scotland its as good as it gets, said Ms Norcross.

It is so frustrating there is not the willingness to do this in England.I think there are political reasonsfor that but I don't really want to say anymore - it's not going to do my cause any good.

There is great collaboration between the four NHS centres in Scotland in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee and a drive to share good practice.

If you are a private business you keep your best practices to yourself.

In Wales and Northern Ireland treatment is centrally commissioned, like it is in Scotland, but they are not as generous you can have up to two in Northern Ireland and in Wales itsjust one.

Its not just great provision (in Scotland) but the provision in the NHS is really good quality. Going on the regulators latest figures, the live birth rate is 28% per embryo transferred for all women in Scotland, whereas its only 23% across the UK.

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If you split down the age range if you are looking at women under the age of 38 the UK average is 29%, whereas in Scotland it is 34%.

Scotland is also ahead of the game in reducing multiple births. There is a drive to cut down on the numbers of twins and triplets because its not good for mum and its not good for baby.

In Scotland the average is only 6% of multiple births, whereas across the UK is 8% and the target that was set by the regulator is 10% so Scotland is way ahead of the target.

Around 60% of couples in Scotland access fertility treatment through the NHS, while in England that figure stands at around 40%.

But even if people are getting it on the NHS in England, it might be done in a private centre, where in Scotland that model is avoided, said Ms Norcross.

There has been a real willingnessby the Scottish Government to fund this and to recognise that fertility treatment is an essential part of the health service and that they should work towards the implementationof the NICE guidelines that were brought in.

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They took a really responsible approach I think in that they knewthey couldnt achieve it overnight without having other knock-on effects to the health service.

The charity leader also hailed the opening of a new centralised NHS facility, near Edinburgh, which aims to improve the process of egg and sperm donation in Scotland and will act as a national storage facility.

The Jack Copeland Centre, near Edinburgh, is also a base for the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service. A national donor drive was due to take place this year but has been postponed due to the pandemic.

It is an issuethat needs to be kept in the public awareness because its not something thats in the publics awareness in the same way as blood donation.

Women are offered around 700 to donate eggs while men receive around 35 per donation - Ms Norcross saidthe process is generally motivatedby altruism.

She said the goal for the future in terms of fertility treatment should be improving access for those who would like a second child and to improve access for single woman and men.Single men do come forwardbut its obviously incrediblydifficult because they have to use surrogacy which is complicatedand expensive.

A spokesman for the UK Government said: Earlier this year the Health and Social Care Secretary committed to reviewing IVF equality to ensure all couples get equal access.

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Scotland's IVF treatment is the 'gold standard', say fertility experts - HeraldScotland

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