NICE recommends IVF for older women

Women over 40 could be allowed IVF on the NHS
Women over 40 could be allowed IVF on the NHS. Photo: ITN

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended that older women, lesbian couples and those with infectious disease should all be eligible to receive in vitro fertilisation (IVF) on the NHS.

The health watchdog which looks at the cost effectiveness of treatments, believes women up to 42 should be entitled to the treatment.

The NICE current guidance, drawn up in 2004, sets the limit at 39.

In the new consultation document, NICE also says that IVF should be offered to gay and lesbian couples as well as those carrying an infectious disease, such as Hepatitis B or HIV.

Since the original recommendations on fertility were published in 2004 there have been many advances in both treatments and in the understanding of different techniques.

– Dr Gill Leng, Nice's deputy chief executive

Medical editor Lawrence McGinty reports on the proposed changes to who can get IVF on the NHS:

However there are concerns that budget constraints in some NHS Trust areas will mean women will not benefit from the new guidance anyway.

Doctors have also said that they are concerned that this will encourage women to put off getting pregnant until they are older and that IVF success decreases over the age of 35.

Infertility is a medical condition that can cause significant distress for those trying to have a baby.

This distress can have a real impact on people's lives, potentially leading to depression and the breakdown of relationships.

However, in many cases infertility can be treated effectively - there are thousands of babies and happy parents thanks to NHS fertility treatment - which is why the NHS provides services and why Nice produces guidance on the topic.

– Dr Gill Leng, Nice's deputy chief executive
  • 1 in 3 couples over the age of 30 are affected by infertility
  • 45,000 women a year have IVF
  • Resulting in 12,000 babies
  • A minority (40.6%) of IVF treatment cycles was funded by the NHS in 2010. The majority (59.4%) were funded privately.

New groups of the population have also been included in this update.

These groups include people who are preparing for cancer treatment who may wish to preserve their fertility, those who carry an infectious disease, such as Hepatitis B or HIV, same-sex couples and those who are unable to have intercourse, for example, if they have a physical disability.

The aim of these new and updated recommendations is to ensure that everyone who has problems with fertility has access to the best levels of help.

We are now consulting on this draft guideline and we welcome comments from interested parties.

– Dr Gill Leng, Nice's deputy chief executive