IVF postcode lottery despair

Alan and Laura Terry, who have been refused IVF treatment
Alan and Laura Terry, who have been refused IVF treatment

DOZENS of desperate city women are being denied the chance of having a child by IVF – simply because they have the wrong postcode.

For Milton Keynes PCT is breaking official government guidelines by imposing its own criteria for couples to qualify for help on the NHS, the Citizen can reveal.

This means women such as 27-year-old Laura Terry, who has yearned to be a mum for as long as she can remember, has been deemed too young to qualify.

“It seems so unfair. We’ve gone to our MP, we’ve complained to the Ombudsman but the PCT won’t change its mind.

“Our only hope is paying £6,000 to have IVF privately but there is no way we could get that kind of money. We’ve had to give up our dream of having a baby and we are devastated.”

Sadly Laura and her husband Alan, of Galley Hill, are not the only couple to have had their hearts broken in the IVF postcode lottery, say leading support group Infertility Network UK.

The group has spent years campaigning for all health authorities to stick to the IVF eligibility guidelines laid down by NICE, the government-funded National Institute of Clinical Excellence.

NICE recommend all infertile women between the ages of 23 and 39 should be granted three NHS-funded cycles of IVF when appropriate.

But Milton Keynes, described by the Infertility Network as “particularly bad” offers just one attempt.

And to qualify for this the woman must be aged between 30 and 35 and must have a body mass index of between 19 and 29.9.

If she or her partner have a “living child” from their relationship or any previous relationship they will be automatically excluded from treatment, the rules dictate.

“This list of criteria obviously manages to exclude a lot of women and couples in Milton Keynes. Yet if the NICE guidelines were applied they would probably qualify,” said a spokesman for Infertility Network.

Laura and Alan found themselves failing on all counts, despite the fact that they have both been deemed indisputably infertile.

“Alan is older than me – he’s 55 but we have been together for 11 years. He has two grown up children from his previous marriage but we want a child together more than anything in the world,” said Laura, whose fertility is blighted by polycystic ovary syndrome.

Despite this, in 2003 the couple managed to conceive naturally. But after problems with the pregnancy, their daughter Hannah was stillborn prematurely.

The second blow came in 2009 when Alan was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

His prostate was removed and, because of the couple’s wish to have a child, the hospital agreed to store his sperm in readiness for IVF.

“But when we applied for the IVF we were refused on the grounds of my age, my husband’s children from his previous marriage and my weight. We have spent the past three years fighting with no success whatsoever,” said Laura, who weighs 12 stone 1lb.

The final blow came this month from Care Northampton, the private fertility specialists used by Milton Keynes PCT for IVF and sperm storage.

“Milton Keynes agreed to pay to store the sperm for three years and that time expires on March 17. If we want to store it for longer we will have to pay £590,” said Laura.

“ We don’t have this kind of money, let alone the money to pay for IVF privately. It is just the last straw for us.

“All I want in life is to be a mother and hold a baby in my arms. I feel so lost without it and so empty inside.”

Milton Keynes PCT has refused to comment on Laura’s case but insisted that personal circumstances are taken into consideration by the IVF funding panel.

Janet Corbett, director of clinical development, said: “The policy has been in place since 2009 after much public consultation. It is the same as many other areas – in some areas in the UK, no cycles of IVF are funded. “