A MOVE TO offer IVF to women over 40 has been welcomed by Oxfordshire fertility campaigners.
Fertility treatment, such as IVF, is currently only recommended by the Government’s spending watchdog for women aged 23 to 39 because the chances of success decline with age.
But the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) is considering changing guidelines to one full cycle of IVF to women aged 40 to 42.
The draft guidelines, which will now go to public consultation, also recommend offering free IVF to gay and lesbian couples as long as they have tried to have a baby at least six times privately.
The move was last night welcomed by Richard MacKenzie, from Witney, who led a campaign to get NHS Oxfordshire, the county’s primary care trust, to end its ‘age discrimination’.
At 26, Mr MacKenzie’s wife Jackie was deemed too young for treatment by the PCT.
Despite current Nice guidelines, which say that infertile couples should be given free cycles of IVF if the woman is between 23 and 39, NHS Oxfordshire only funds treatments for those aged between 30 and 35.
Mr MacKenzie said: “It is great that Nice is trying to make access to IVF equal for everyone.
“What needs to happen now is for the access to funding to be better.
“There will still be a postcode lottery.”
The new guidelines have also taken into account people who have an infectious disease, such as Hepatitis B or HIV, same-sex couples and those who are unable to have intercourse, for example, if they have a physical disability.
Since he launched his campaign against NHS Oxfordshire in 2009, Mrs MacKenzie has undergone IVF privately and the couple now have a two-year-old son, Bob.
Mr MacKenzie said: “Since having Bob, I can’t imagine my life any other way.
“I know what it is like to want a child.
“If you are over 40 and you want a child there could be many reasons why.
“Jackie and I were lost in the system ourselves for many years.”
NHS Oxfordshire said its current policy considered IVF a low priority, and unless infertile women were aged between 30 and 35, they would have to prove they were an ‘exceptional case’ to get funding.
Dr Gill Leng, deputy chief executive of Nice, said: “Infertility is a medical condition that can cause significant distress for those trying to have a baby.
“This distress can have a real impact on people’s lives, potentially leading to depression and the break-down of relationships.”
She added: “Nice reviews all guidance at regular intervals to ensure recommendations are based on the most up-to-date evidence available.
“The aim of these new and updated recommendations is to ensure that everyone who has problems with fertility has access to the best levels of help.
“We are now consulting on this draft guideline and we welcome comments from interested parties.”
When published, the update will replace some but not all parts of the original fertility guidelines.
Until then, NHS bodies should continue to follow the recommendations from the current guidelines.