Gaps in UK fertility treatment push patients abroad

A joint survey between Fertility Clinics Abroad and Fertility Network UK reveals drivers for seeking IVF overseas

Fertility patients’ inability to access NHS IVF coupled with the high cost of private treatment are the key drivers for seeking IVF overseas, according to a joint survey from Fertility Clinics Abroad, an online information hub for people seeking fertility treatment in Europe and Fertility Network UK, the leading patient fertility charity.

According to the research, 76% of respondents felt private fertilty treatment was very expensive, with nearly 80% believing it is at best over twice as expensive as they are willing or able to pay. IVF using your own eggs was the most sought after treatment and people were willing to pay between £1,000 and £5,000 for the treatment.

The majority – 65% – pointed to the fact that access to fertility treatment via the NHS is a postcode lottery, while 35% said long waiting lists and a lack of egg donors were a serious problem in the UK.

The research also reveals some of the desperate measures people are willing to take to fund their treatment. 62% were using their life savings, putting added pressure on their ability to fund pensions, pay for educational fees or support other family members. Some of the respondents had to re-mortgage their houses or sell personal belongings. Other popular ways to fund treatment where to ask for help from family and friends, securing banks loans, starting a crowd funding campaign or using credit cards.

Over 93% of respondents said they would consider fertility treatment overseas: 68% said they would go abroad because the treatments on offer are generally cheaper. 50% believe foreign clinics can offer higher success rates and 46% would consider going because of positive reports from other people. People are also drawn by the promise of shorter waiting lists and access to more egg donors.

Susan Seenan, chief executive of Fertility Network UK said: “It is clear that fertility patients’ inability to access NHS IVF because of substantial cuts to services, coupled with the high cost of private fertility treatment in the UK, are the key drivers for seeking fertility treatment abroad and, if neither of these change, fertility tourism is likely to increase in popularity. Going overseas can be the right option for many: low costs and the fact that you can leave home for a short break, relax in a different environment and not have to juggle clinic appointments with work commitments is a big benefit. However, if you are considering fertility treatment abroad it is important to consider the differences in terms of regulations around the use of anonymous donors and the number of embryos that can be transferred; there are much higher risks to both mother and baby from twin (or triplet) pregnancies.”

Caroline Phillips, founder of Fertility Clinics Abroad said: “Our research has shown that the cost of private fertility treatment and the inconsistent provision of free or reduced cost treatment by the NHS, are driving people away from the UK. Cost is the determining factor that is both pushing people away from the UK and attracting people to countries such as Spain and Greece, where the cost of fertility treatment is up to 50% cheaper. With people having to re-mortgage their houses, dig into their life savings or sell personal possessions, the impact of high treatment costs is likely to have a lasting effect on people and their families.”


This research comes at a time when England is experiencing substantial disinvestment in NHS fertility services: five clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have decommissioned NHS IVF; 60 per cent offer just 1 NHS IVF cycle; 23.4 per cent provide 2 NHS IVF cycles and just 14.8 per cent follow national guidance and offer 3 NHS-funded IVF cycles for eligible women under 40. The situation varies across the rest of the UK: in Scotland, eligible women under 40, including couples where one partner has no biological child, are entitled to 3 NHS-funded IVF cycles; in Wales, women under 40 are entitled to two cycles and in Northern Ireland women under 40 are offered one partial cycle.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded at