In a HUGE stride towards equality, the UK government has just announced sweeping changes to provide equal access to fertility treatment via the NHS. Hurrah! A key pillar of the new Women’s Health Strategy, published on Wednesday 20th July, removes the need for queer women to self-fund six cycles of artificial insemination (IUI) before being eligible for NHS fertility treatments, such as IVF. The change in rules takes immediate effect and is set to benefit queer female couples, non-binary and trans people, paving the way for lots more wonderful people to start families.
Prior to this week’s ruling, BPAS had found that the majority of NHS bodies and clinical commissioning groups required queer couples and people to self-fund a minimum of three, and often up to six, cycles of artificial insemination (IUI). Only after this point were these people eligible for NHS-funded IVF. At a staggering cost of up to £1800 per round, this meant a £5,400 – £10,800 financial barrier to starting a family. Note: this is before the added costs of expensive private fertility testing or the additional costs of sperm.
This often meant years of saving, or financially excluding some people entirely prohibiting them from starting a family. In contrast, cisgender heterosexual couples need to try to conceive for two years before they can be referred for NHS-funded IVF treatment in most parts of the UK.
NHS fertility treatment will now start with six cycles of artificial insemination (IUI) before going on to IVF, if required. The UK government have also committed to end the current “postcode lottery”, that means variable access to IVF treatment, ranging from some NHS trusts offering no funded fertility treatment, some one cycle and others up to three.
Marta Jansa Perez, BPAS Fertility’s director of embryology, said that they were “absolutely delighted” with the government’s decision to remove these additional barriers that queer couples have faced.
Nancy Kelley, CEO of Stonewall, said: “We are delighted that the UK government has listened to our call for fair and equal access to IVF treatment. “For years, lesbians, bi women and trans people have been forced to pay for up to £25,000 of private healthcare before they can access IVF on the NHS, or face giving up their dream of becoming parents. This is a giant step towards a world where LGBTQ+ people have the same opportunity as everyone else to build a loving, thriving family of their own.”
Stonewall and other UK-based charities along with Lesbian influencers Wegan’s legal challenge have all helped to bring the issue of fairer access to fertility treatment to wider public conciseness.
The changes were announced as part of the government’s first Women’s Health Strategy Aside from sweeping changes to fertility treatment this also includes significant investment into breast/chest screening programmes and improvements to specialist endometriosis services, aimed at boosting diagnosis and treatment.
Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, said: “Our health and care system only works if it works for everyone. “It is not right that 51% of our population are disadvantaged in accessing the care they need, simply because of their sex. The publication of this strategy is a landmark moment in addressing entrenched inequalities and improving the health and wellbeing of women across the country.”
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