The IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) waiting list in the UK depends on whether you are having treatment through the NHS or via a private healthcare clinic. In the UK, six out of ten people choose to fund IVF cycles privately. The number one reason for doing so is because of waiting times. Much like numerous other treatments, the NHS prioritises patients and those receiving treatment and care based on needs as well as various other determining factors and so it is difficult to always put a precise timeframe on how long an individual or a couple may have to wait to receive IVF treatment on the NHS.
With fertility treatments and the journey to conceive and then give birth to a child, often being a very time sensitive process, time is more often than not of the essence and thus, the longer the waiting times for fertility treatment like IVF, the less time the couple or individual in question is likely to have to give birth to the child or children they will so desperately want.
How Long Is The NHS Waiting List For IVF?
According to the Human Fertility & Embryology Authority (HFEA), how long you wait for IVF treatment on the NHS mostly depends on your local area and its Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). Those eligible for NHS funding can remain on the list from as little as a few months up to three years before beginning fertility treatment, depending on your area.
Many NHS clinics in England now operate with an 18-week policy. This means that you should be able to begin fertility treatment within 18 weeks of your GP referring you to the fertility clinic. However, CCGs usually require patients to go through fertility testing and other forms of fertility treatment before approving IVF funding. While waiting times still vary, once you have received funding for IVF on the NHS, you can expect to wait for around four months.
An issue that arises here is that for some patients and people looking for IVF treatment as a form of fertility treatment, they may for a plethora of reasons need to move faster than the NHS can and may therefore need to go to a private fertility clinic for the IVF treatment they need.
Why Is The NHS Waiting List So Long?
The primary cause for these long wait times is limited resources, increased demand and a limited supply. Because the resources available to the NHS are restricted, they cannot accommodate everyone hoping to get fertility treatment at the same time. This means that some people get pushed up the queue and others down it, much as is the case with other 'non-urgent' treatments and procedures on the NHS.
Do Private Fertility Clinics in the UK Have Waiting Lists?
Some private clinics will also have waiting lists for IVF, but they are likely to be significantly shorter than the waiting lists of the NHS for equivalent IVF and fertility treatment. Within the private sector, waiting lists are used to manage demand with the clinics staffing and resources.
While choosing IVF with a private fertility clinic may not always guarantee better chances of success, they can guarantee shorter waiting times and patients will often receive peace of mind in the knowledge that the private clinic, as a business will need the treatment to succeed to improve the reputation of their clinic as a fertility clinic in the private sector. Private clinics provide a quicker process all-round, as well as more flexibility to suit your schedule.
How Long Does The IVF Process Take?
Excluding wait times, once treatment starts you can expect one IVF cycle to take between six and nine weeks. This includes the time it takes to find out whether you’ve been successful in getting pregnant. If the cycle is unsuccessful, it does not mean there is no hope. Many people repeat the IVF process and are successful on subsequent cycles.
Am I Eligible For IVF On The NHS?
To be better informed about the NHS IVF service and to understand whether or not you or anyone else is eligible for IVF on the NHS there are a number of areas to think about and a number of points to take into consideration before starting the IVF journey. There are various primary considerations that should be made and accounted for prior to starting IVF treatment in the UK::
- Each Local CCG Has Different Policies - While IVF can be offered for free on the NHS, you are required to meet specific eligibility criteria as set out by your local CCG. If you are not eligible, you may need to pay to go private for your IVF treatment. Unfortunately, your local CCG may have stricter criteria that prevent you from being suitable. For example, they may have rules that you must be a non-smoker, a healthy weight or have no previous children to get IVF. As a result, it can be unclear when checking if you are eligible for IVF through the NHS and it is always recommended you seek advice from your GP. You can find the CCG policy for your council online
- Expect Delays in the IVF Process Through the NHS - Because the chances of success with fertility treatment significantly fall once you reach 40, timing is a crucial factor in the IVF process. Therefore, you should take into account the possibility of waiting for more than a year wait to start your treatment on the NHS. This is especially important to consider if you are beginning your fertility journey over 35 years old and even more so if you are over 38
- Your Choice of Fertility Clinic is Limited - Another crucial point to consider is that your choice of fertility clinic in the UK is limited. When having IVF through the NHS, this will be decided based on the area in which you live and reside. Within your postcode range, you may be able to choose between just two or three clinics or you may have no choice at all. However, you can decide which clinic suits you best based on their success rates and any other factors you decide upon when paying privately for IVF and fertility treatments
It can ultimately be challenging to decide whether to wait longer for IVF treatment on the NHS or to wait a shorter time but pay for the necessary treatment at a private clinic. Most importantly, whatever decision you make, it is imperative that it is the right one for you and your family.