One in four health trusts is refusing to provide IVF to couples if the man is deemed too fat, figures have revealed.
This is despite the fact that there is only limited evidence that a man’s weight makes a difference to the chances of a woman becoming pregnant during treatment.
Campaigners for fair access to IVF have accused health bosses of making up their own access rules to ration fertility treatment and save money.
One in four health trusts is refusing to provide IVF to couples if the man is deemed too fat, figures have revealed
An audit of 195 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) found that 27 per cent used a man’s body mass index (BMI) to decide if IVF could be provided.
The vast majority – 91 per cent – said treatment would be refused if either the man or the woman already had a child from a previous relationship.
Another 8 per cent said men must be aged below 55 and 25 per cent will take into consideration a woman’s egg count.
These rules fly in the face of fertility guidance of Nice, the NHS watchdog, which has drawn up its own criteria on who should be allowed treatment – and they do not include the man’s weight, previous children or the woman’s egg count.
Sarah Norcross, of Fertility Fairness, the charity which carried out the research, said: ‘It is shocking to see CCGs introducing their own access to IVF criteria, as well as reducing the number of IVF cycles they offer.
NHS watchdog, which has drawn up its own criteria on who should be allowed treatment – and they do not include the man’s weight, previous children or the woman’s egg count
‘It is not the CCG’s job to decide the criteria for accessing NHS fertility services. What criteria will CCGs introduce next – star signs and shoe size?
‘CCGs need to remove their extra access to IVF criteria now.’
Consultant gynaecologist Raj Mathur, a Fertility Fairness member, said: ‘Male age and BMI are not in the Nice guidance as criteria for IVF and there is no strong evidence of impact on outcomes. Commissioners are making unjustified extrapolation in using them for rationing.’
It is estimated that one in seven couples suffers from fertility problems.
The charity’s research was carried out by looking at the fertility guidelines on the websites of the CCGs.
It was also found that 3.4 per cent of CCGs offer no IVF at all – up from 2 per cent last year.
Only 11.5 per cent offer the three courses of IVF recommended by Nice, against 16 per cent last year.
The majority of CCGs only provide one cycle which means couples have a slim chance of having a baby.
On average, only about one in four IVF cycles results in a successful birth.
Fertility Fairness’s Aileen Feeney said: ‘Infertility is a devastating disease causing depression, suicidal feelings, relationship breakdown and social isolation.
‘Removing the recommended clinical help or making it harder to access is cruel and economically short-sighted.’
Only 11.5 per cent offer the three courses of IVF recommended by Nice, against 16 per cent last year