Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage and constituent fight to end 'cruel' IVF 'postcode lottery' that means women in Hampshire can't have treatment once they reach 35

A GOSPORT politician and constituent are fighting to end ‘cruel’ IVF inequality that means women in Hampshire are among just five per cent of the country who can’t have NHS treatment once they reach 35.

Friday, 29th April 2022, 11:00 am

MP and former health minister, Caroline Dinenage, has slammed the ‘distressing’ system, branding it an ‘injustice’ and has discussed the matter further with secretary of state Sajid Javid.

IVF treatment, which fertilises the egg in a laboratory before placing it in the mother’s womb to develop, is allocated by local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

Both the Portsmouth CCG and the Hampshire, Southampton and Isle of Wight CCG cap IVF eligibility at the age of 35 – and are only two out of 106 CCGs across the country to do so.

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MP Caroline Dinenage speaking at a Gosport Public Health Forum in 2019 Picture: Malcolm Wells (190517-7252)

Everywhere else the age is limited to 40, in line with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) guidelines.

In the House of Commons on April 19, Ms Dinenage asked to meet Mr Javid to ‘discuss ending this most devastating of postcode lotteries’.

Speaking to The News, Ms Dinenage said: ‘Since before I was elected I’ve been angry about this injustice and as the health minister from 2018 to 2020 I started the Women’s Health Strategy to tackle issues like this.

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Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage and health minister Sajid Javid

‘It’s good the secretary of state shares my determination to fix it.’

A Gosport resident, who did not wish to be named as she’s still in the process of looking into treatment, missed out on IVF with the NHS as she reached 35 around the time she and her partner realised they were having fertility issues.

‘I knew the national age for IVF was 40 because that’s what the Nice guidelines were so we thought we had loads of time in case things didn’t happen,’ she said.

Now 37, she has had two chemical pregnancies – very early-stage miscarriages – and a later-stage miscarriage. But doctors have not yet found the cause of their infertility.

Embryos being placed onto a CryoLeaf ready for instant freezing using a vitrification process for IVF.. Photo credit should read: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

She said: ‘It’s been really hard. It’s one of those things that there’s not really a lot of support for.

‘The system seems really unjust.

‘We live just 27 miles away from Chichester, in West Sussex, where the age limit is 40, so we would have been able to get three cycles of IVF.

‘We thought about moving but we own a house here and this is our home.’

They are looking into private IVF but realistically it will cost them around £18,000.

In the meeting with Sajid Javid he ‘assured’ Ms Dinenage this unfairness would be addressed in the forthcoming women’s health strategy for England.

She added: ‘I am delighted that the secretary of state agreed to meet with me so swiftly to discuss this important issue.

‘Access to IVF should not be a postcode lottery. I welcome the news that this injustice will finally be addressed in the women’s health strategy, a piece of work I kicked off as health minister.’

The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care System, on behalf of the Portsmouth and Hampshire CCGs, said: ‘The very difficult decision to recommend IVF funding for women under 35 only is based on the effectiveness of IVF and the likelihood of achieving a live birth, which unfortunately decreases with age.

‘While we know this may be distressing, we also know that age does have a direct effect on the likely success of treatment, and we must consider this when adopting the policy.’

However, the policy for both CCGs is ‘expected to be reviewed’ this year.