IVF Treatment: Has It Become Too Costly? THE DEBATE 'Commercialised' Clinics Have Come under Attack, as Vicky Anderson Explains

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), June 5, 2007 | Go to article overview

IVF Treatment: Has It Become Too Costly? THE DEBATE 'Commercialised' Clinics Have Come under Attack, as Vicky Anderson Explains


Byline: Vicky Anderson

COMMENTS by the leading fertility expert, Professor Robert Winston, made headlines this week when he argued IVF treatment in this country is a "commercialised industry" which, he believes, exploits vulnerable couples.

Speaking at the Hay literary festival, he said "amazing sums" of money were being made through IVF, and added that: "Money is corrupting the whole technology".

Prof Winston's comments were immediately criticised on Merseyside as London-centric, out of touch, and not reflective of the reality of treatments offered to women across the region.

The Hewitt Centre, at Liverpool Women's Hospital, is one of the country's largest IVF treatment centres with NHS funding, which helps thousands of couples with fertility problems every year.

It is one of 85 licensed clinics in the country, serving both private and NHS patients, and stresses that it will not perform any procedure that is not backed up by scientific medical evidence to prove the benefit - unlike the clinics Prof Winston attacked.

However, opinion on Merseyside is divided.

Others in the medical profession say that there are no guarantees with IVF, and that couples seeking fertility treatment should perhaps consider other ways of starting a family, such as adoption.

There is an emotional cost to undertaking IVF, as well as a significant financial one.

So, this week, the Daily Post asks: Is IVF too expensive?

It's not to make money but to provide for patients

NO

Charles Kingsland, clinical director, Hewitt Centre for Reproductive Medicine

WHAT is of concern to me, following the comments from Professor Winston, is that the work we do in Liverpool will be put in a bad light.

It is very disappointing that the professor, who is a little out of date, has very little idea or knowledge of what happens in the north of England.

In London, some clinics do indeed charge a lot of money for IVF, but in Liverpool women are not "exploited".

We strived for nearly 20 years to obtain NHS funding for the Hewitt Centre, and now we cover Merseyside, Cheshire, Manchester and parts of Lancashire.

Our NHS unit is not there to make money, it is not there for profit, it is there to provide for patients just like anywhere else.

However, there are still patients who do not qualify for NHS treatments, whether they are over age, significantly overweight, or had sterilisation procedures; therefore, we also provide self-funded treatment, working with North West Fertility Ltd.

The cost of IVF to the NHS is about pounds 4,000 per cycle - it might seem very expensive, but in fact it is relatively cheap.

For example, delivering a baby can cost over pounds 2,000.

It is just that people think we should be spending on "proper" conditions, like cancer, which is all very well until you find out you are infertile, and then you will do anything for treatment.

Some units offer all sorts of things that are not based on medical evidence and offer no benefit, and I assume they are the ones Prof Winston is talking about.

Private clinics say they have higher success rates than NHS units, but that is because patients just don't wait as long for treatment.

We treat 1,300 couples with IVF a year, and far more for infertility problems.

Liverpool Women's Hospital fought tooth and nail for NHS funding. We set up in 1989 from nothing, and now we are the biggest NHS unit in the country.

Treatment costs the same for NHS and self-funded patients - IVF is IVF - but there are other overhead costs involved that mean self-funded patients do pay significantly more. …

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