The UK has a large number of fertility treatment centres across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Due to the concentration of the population around London this is where the most clinics can be found. This location “advantage” to more potential customers is however also reflected in the cost of treatment, which tends to be higher than in other cities.
The industry is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), a government organisation that regulates and inspects all UK clinics that provide fertility treatment, including the storage of eggs, sperm or embryos.
UK resident patients may be offered fertility treatment for free by the NHS depending on what is causing their fertility problems and what is available from their local NHS clinical commissioning group (CCG).
Eligibility for Treatment
Fertility treatment funded by the NHS varies substantially across the UK. In some areas, waiting lists for treatment can be very long.
The criteria that you must meet to be eligible for treatment also varies between the regions. The patient’s local GP will be able to advise about eligibility for treatment.
Only if the patient’s GP provides a referral to a specialist for further tests, the cost will be NHS will pay for the treatment. All patients have the right to be referred to an NHS clinic for the initial investigation.
Eligibility for Treatment
Patients, who have an infertility problem, may consider private treatment. This, however, can be expensive and there is no guarantee of success.
If patients decide to go private, they can ask their GP for advice, and make sure they choose a clinic licensed by the HFEA. It is important to choose a private clinic carefully. Patients should find out:
- which clinics are available
- which treatments are offered
- the success rates of treatments at the clinic (refer to the HFEA database)
- the length of the waiting list
- the costs
Patients should ask for a personalised, fully costed treatment plan that explains exactly every detail of what is included, such as fees, scans and any necessary medication.
Fertility Tourism for UK Residents
British residents eligible for treatment on the NHS can now choose to have their medical care at a private or public healthcare facility in Europe (EEA). A multitude of agencies is available to support and manage the process making sure the NHS reimburses patients’ expenses for the various procedures.
The NHS will cover the cost of
- diagnostics and
- treatment (both in- and out-patient)
that patients are eligible for in the UK. In fact, it covers almost all routine operations and procedures including dentistry.
The UK is one of the most expensive countries to live in within the EU. The majority of countries (and the ones where we have extensive hospital and clinic connections) all cost less. Countries like France or Germany typically cost the same or more as the UK, so going to these will mean you have to cover the difference.
The NHS will not cover
- Translations (if required)
- Travel costs and insurance
- Accommodation (except when staying in the hospital)
- Procedures and tests which are not usually available under the NHS or your local area.
- Any aesthetic procedures.
- Patients must be UK resident (proof of residence)
- Patients pay for their treatment in advance and then the NHS will reimburse them (agencies claim they can speed up the repayment process to 4-10 weeks)
- Depending on the complexities of each individual case, some diagnostics, and proof of the medical need for treatment, can be obtained from the local doctor (NHS or Private), or the doctors abroad who will perform the procedure.
- Some, more complex or very expensive treatments require prior-authorisation by NHS.
Fertility Tourism Agencies
There are now over 3,000 fertility clinics in operation around the world, including over 500 in India alone and over 200 in Spain.
Choosing where to go for fertility treatment can therefore be difficult.
Many additional aspects need arranging such as flights, visas, hotels, local transport and insurance. It is therefore easy to see how a new type of travel agency has developed: the fertility tourism agency.
The agencies offer comprehensive all-round services from private initial consultations, cooperation with the clinics abroad to after-care. They will also attempt prior-authorisation from the NHS so that repayment is guaranteed.
One agency even offers the UK’s first IVF Refund Plan, where your costs are limited to one IVF cycle, even if the couple has not conceived after three cycles.