Thousands of infertile couples are having to pay for treatment even though they are entitled to at least one free full cycle
|Thousands of infertile couples are not receiving free IVF treatment from the NHS because only nine of 151 health trusts in England are providing the recommended level of therapy.
Government guidance says couples are entitled to at least one free full cycle of IVF.
But four areas are not providing it at all and others are insisting couples should not be smokers, should have been in a stable relationship for two years, and are also setting narrow age restrictions.
The survey of primary care trust provision of IVF by the Department of Health last year also found that 94 per cent of primary care trusts in England are still not providing the three free cycles of IVF that should be available under national guidelines issued in 2004.
Susan Seenan, spokesman for Infertility Network UK, called the findings "unfair" and a "disgrace".
"It is ridiculous that some PCTs are forcing women to wait until they are over 35 when their natural fertility has declined and the chance of a successful outcome is much less," she told the Daily Telegraph.
About one in six couples is affected by infertility.
Nearly 45,000 cycles of IVF are performed in the UK each year, but the level of NHS provision means that more than 30,000 of these are conducted by the couple privately, at an average cost of about £2,000 per cycle.