NHS Funding in Northern Ireland

NHS fertility treatment is not well funded in N Ireland with only one fresh and one frozen embryo transfer funded.

In Northern Ireland the Health and Social Care Board (HSC) are responsible for commissioning of fertility services.  A motion calling for the HSC to provide three full cycles of treatment has been approved in principle, but in reality additional finance needs to be made available to make this happen, even in a phased approach.

To be eligible for NHS funded In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) or Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) treatments you will need to meet the following criteria:

  • There must be a PROVEN medical cause of infertility (Note 1)
  • The female patient must be under 40 years of age when starting treatment (Note 2)
  • The female patient should have had no more than three previous unsuccessful treatments (including frozen embryo transfer)
  • The female patient must have a BMI less than 35kg/m2

(Note 1) Duration of Infertility

In general couples must have been trying for a year to be diagnosed as having fertility problems. In order to qualify for NHS specialist infertility treatment they must have a diagnosed cause for their infertility, or have been infertile without a recognised cause for three years.

(Note 2) Age of Female Patient

There is a one year wait for treatment once a couple has been assessed as suitable for IVF treatment. This mean that a woman must be aged less than 39 when she is added to the IVF / ICSI waiting list.

Important information relating to the criteria for NHS Fertility Treatment in N. Ireland

Frozen Embryo Transfers

Patients referred into the RFC after 1st April 2012 are entitled to one cycle of FET treatment, where applicable.

Storage of Embryos or Sperm for use in Treatment

Your NHS treatment includes storage of embryos for two years from the date of your treatment. If you wish to continue storage beyond this, you will have to meet the storage costs. If you store sperm for use in further treatment the same storage charges apply. The exception to this is storage for oncology or in certain cases other medical reasons.

Voluntary Sterilisation

Voluntary sterilisation is not a medical cause of infertility and therefore where someone has been voluntarily sterilised NHS fertility treatment will not be provided.

Dependent Children

A previous restriction on those with dependent children was removed in 2006 and couples who have children living with them (in any capacity) have equitable access to services.

A Common Approach to Sub-Fertility across Northern Ireland

Work is underway to create a regional care pathway for the management of sub fertility in Northern Ireland. This will describe the investigations and assessments to be carried out in units outside of the Regional Fertility Centre (RFC) and should enable couples to have the majority of sub fertility investigations carried out in their local hospital. Following referral to the RFC, couples will be advised of what method of assisted conception will be provided and when they are likely to be treated provided they meet the eligibility criteria for IVF and related treatments.

The development of a regional care pathway should reduce duplication of tests and support equitable access to services across Northern Ireland. Already andrology laboratory services have been standardised in the RFC, Craigavon and Altnagelvin laboratories and this should ensure results are comparable and reduce the need for repeat testing.

If you would like to help us campaign for more funding and improved NHS fertility provision in Northern Ireland, please visit our campaign page.