The NHS “Postcode Lottery”
The World Health Organisation has classified infertility as a disease, therefore if you live in the UK you would be well within your rights to think that fertility treatment would be provided by the NHS. However, you may be wrong. Not only can the waiting lists be extremely long in some places, but you or your partner may not meet the extensive list of criteria that would make you eligible for treatment on the NHS. Even worse than this, IVF in the UK has become something of a postcode lottery during the past few years, with the availability of treatment being very much dependant on where you live in the country. Some areas offer as much as 3 cycles on the NHS, others only 1, and in some areas the NHS funding for IVF has been cut completely. I know some couples who have had to travel hundreds of miles to their nearest fertility clinic, and anyone who has been through IVF will know this is a huge undertaking considering the frequency of clinic visits that need to be made per cycle.
The hidden costs of private IVF
With IVF treatment on the NHS being very much a ‘luck of the draw’ process, many couples investigate how they can access treatment privately, and this inevitably leads to the question ‘How much does IVF cost?’ Unfortunately, this question cannot be answered definitively, as prices vary depending on what clinic you choose. Again, there may not be a private clinic near where you reside therefore travel can still be involved, which will inevitably increase the amount you are spending overall. Prices can also very quickly spiral out of control as the cost you are given for IVF treatment may well not include all the additional charges you will incur for blood tests, scans, medication etc. My husband and I found ourselves a bit surprised when we received an invoice for our first cycle of IVF; there were charges on it that we classed as ‘hidden costs’, things that we had naively assumed would be part of the overall figure we were given before we signed up to the process. This made us feel like we didn’t have control over what we were spending, as obviously you can’t say “no thanks we don’t want to have that scan”. You more or less need to have everything suggested to you; it’s all part of the overall treatment of IVF, therefore you are stuck having to pay for things that you feel should have already been covered.
Our experience with IVF and the NHS in Scotland
Like most couples I expect, we had no clue as to the cost of IVF when we first had a consultation about doing private IVF treatment. Although in Scotland we are much better off than the majority of the UK as we are offered 3 rounds of IVF on the NHS, we had two primary reasons why we opted for private treatment. One was the BMI stipulation. Anyone undergoing IVF has to have a BMI of under 30 to utilise the NHS treatment. My BMI was just on 30 (the BMI scale really works against me as I’m only 5 foot 1 inches in height!), therefore they were very picky about us adhering to the rules. Secondly however, and more importantly, was the waiting list. There was about a year’s wait to access fertility treatment and with my husband and I both being in our mid-30’s at the time, we felt we didn’t have any time to lose. So we opted for private IVF treatment. Where we live, it’s quite unusual in that the NHS clinic and the private clinic are the same place, within our local NHS hospital. It’s all the same doctors, the same nurses, the same treatment rooms; you’re even sitting in the waiting room next to NHS patients. The only difference that we’re aware of is that we get the best appointment times, and of course, we’ve jumped the queue. As far as we know, there is no difference in treatment, and that’s exactly how it should be, however I must admit it has often irritated us throughout our 2 IVF cycles that we were paying a lot of money for our treatment, and essentially we were treated exactly the same as everyone else. I would see pictures online from friends that I met through my blog going to their fancy private fertility clinics, with lovely décor, smiling staff and one-to-one care, and here we were, sitting in the NHS clinic with a curtain that was too short to cover me when I was getting my internal scans, toilet doors that wouldn’t lock and nurses that would barely say good morning to you as they were too busy rushing you out to get onto the next person. And for the privilege we paid just over £5000 per cycle.
This is where a clinic like ABC IVF really stands out. Not only do they offer the most affordable fertility treatment in the UK, but their all-inclusive packages mean there are no hidden costs of IVF. For IVF, They guarantee that you will never pay more than £2,500. That’s half what my husband and I paid at our clinic. This includes absolutely everything from all your scans, blood tests and medications to your egg retrieval, embryo transfer and all consultations throughout the entire process. Packages like these not only allow you to know up front exactly how much you will pay, but it also makes you feel in complete control of what you are spending. It also reduces a lot of worry and stress, as you know that everything you undertake will be covered in your plan. There’s nothing worse than being in the position of getting a simple blood test and wondering how much it’s going to cost you.
With the price of IVF treatment in the UK on such a huge sliding scale, it’s nice to have peace of mind that at ABC IVF, what you’re quoted at the outset is what you will pay.
See how the cost of IVF varies throughout the UK
Think before you travel
When I hear of a clinic like ABC it really makes me wish we had another choice of private clinic where I live, especially as we feel that we are essentially paying a lot of money just to have NHS treatment. One doctor we had even admitted to us that the money we spend on our private treatment is what pays for patients to have IVF treatment on the NHS. It really baffles me and makes me feel like the whole system is pretty unfair. Of course, we always have the option of going to another city for treatment; there are some great private clinics in Glasgow and Edinburgh which is only a few hours away from us, however you cannot underestimate the importance of being only 20 minutes away from your bed after you’ve been through the egg retrieval procedure. The thought of sitting in a car for 3 hours or even going back to a hotel bed is not very appealing when you’re in so much pain, discomfort and completely groggy from all the drugs.
However, anyone who lives near London or can easily access London and is looking for great value IVF treatment at an exceptionally high quality should definitely check out ABC IVF. As an IVF patient, I think what they’ve done is tremendous in terms of providing all-inclusive treatment plans. It really shows a care for their patients that can often be pretty hard to find.
Rachel Reid - Guest Blogger
After being diagnosed with a blocked fallopian tube in August 2016, Rachel started her IVF journey. Currently 2 cycles down, 1 failed cycle, a pregnancy and a miscarriage, Rachel hopes to help other couples dealing with infertility by sharing her experiences. Rachel's blog, Our Path to Parenthood, is intended to be a real, raw and honest account of her experience as her and her partner navigate their path to parenthood.
The situation we are currently in is a cause of concern for everyone, but particularly those who have had to have their fertility treatments put on hold. If you are in this situation and found that to access the things that would normally help you cope is restricted, practicing positive thinking and mindfulness could help with managing any concerns or stress you are currently dealing with.
I know that this is a frustrating time for our patients who have been waiting to start treatment, but we are here to support you as much as possible during this time. Here are a few suggestions that you can do during lockdown so that you are as prepared as possible for when you begin your treatment.