A new report has revealed a huge disparity in the cost of private IVF treatment.
It has found that some private patients are being charged more than three times as much for the likes of blood tests, drugs and consultations.
The average cost for a single cycle of IVF in the UK is £3,348 – with the highest was £4,195 and the lowest £2,650, according to research by Opinium.
The price of for additional charges – such as registration fees and nurse consultations – vary between clinics from £655 to £2,335, reports The Times.
Campaigners have highlighted a so-called ‘postcode lottery’ in NHS-funded fertility treatment, with couples forced to pay thousands of pounds for private treatment where access to fertility treatment has been restricted.
Experts say that patients who go private cannot shop around for the best price because treatment is time sensitive and intensive.
A new report has revealed a huge disparity in the cost of private IVF treatment (stock image)
Fertility problems are estimated to affect one in six or one in seven couples in the UK – approximately 3.5 million people.
Around 60,000 fertility treatments are performed in UK licensed clinics per year, with the live birth rate after IVF about a quarter, according to 2013 figures from the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
Aileen Feeney, chief executive of the patient charity Fertility Network UK, told the newspaper: ‘It is unfair that after facing this postcode lottery for NHS care patients then face the inequities of a private system where prices for fertility services vary across the country.
‘Fertility patients can be particularly affected by these variations in price because the time-intensive and time-sensitive nature of IVF makes travelling greater distances in order to access the least expensive care simply not an option.’
How the research was carried out
The research, carried out on behalf of London-based lower-cost fertility treatment provider ABC IVF, analysed price lists from 70 clinics.
It then carried out more in-depth research online and via email into 18 providers to find out what they charged for the likes of drugs and consultations.
The study discovered costs for sedation started at £100 in some clinics and £300 in others and blood tests were priced from £30 to £135. Drug prices ranged from £500 to £1,000, while upper cost estimates ranged from £1,100 to £3,700.
Some clinics outside London were pricier than those clustered within the M25, suggesting that competition may help to drive prices down.
BEST AND WORST AREAS FOR IVF
A report by Fertility Fairness released in October provided a ‘league table’ of NHS-funded IVF provision in England.
Top of the league (providing 3 cycles and least strict criteria):
- NHS Bury
- NHS Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale
- NHS Oldham
- NHS Tameside and Glossop
Bottom of the league (providing none):
- NHS Basildon and Brentwood
- NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
- NHS Croydon
- NHS Herts Valleys
- NHS Mid Essex
- NHS North East Essex
- NHS South Norfolk
The full table can be seen here.
A spokesperson from the HFEA said it has no powers to control how much clinics charge for treatments and services but publishes the wide range of prices on its website so that patients are aware.
Guidelines from the National Institute for Heath and Care Excellence (Nice) recommend that eligible women under 40 should be offered three full IVF cycles and eligible women aged 40 to 42 should be offered one full IVF cycle.
However, latest figures reveal that only 12 per cent of areas in England offer three cycles. This is down from 24 per cent in 2013.
The campaign group Fertility Fairness highlighted how, in some parts of the country, couples have to pay thousands of pounds for private treatment, while other trusts provide a full service funded by the taxpayer.
Just 24 out of 208 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England offer three cycles. Seven areas have removed NHS IVF entirely.