Fertility Treatment

Oral Answers to Questions — Health, Social Services and Public Safety – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 14 October 2002.

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Photo of Patricia Lewsley Patricia Lewsley Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:00, 14 October 2002

1. asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to outline, for each health service board (a) the waiting time for an initial fertility clinic consultation and (b) the waiting time for each type of fertility treatment.

(AQO 339/02)

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Áirítear seirbhísí neamhthorthúlachta sna ceithre bhord sláinte agus seirbhísí sóisialta mar chlinicí ginearálta gínéiceolaíochta; mar sin de níl saineolas ar bith ar fáil maidir le hamanna feithimh do chlinicí neamhthorthúlachta.

Cuimsíonn cóireáil neamhthorthúlachta drugaí, máinliacht, inseamhnú saorga agus teicníochtaí cúnta giniúna mar IVF (toirchiú in vitro). Fanann cuid othar le cóireáil agus iad ar liostaí feithimh ginearálta, mar shampla, i ngnícéiceolaíocht, agus ní féidir iad a mhiondealú de réir diagnóise nó de réir reachta.

Fertility services in the four health and social services boards are counted under general gynaecology clinics, and no specific information in regard to waiting times for infertility clinics is available. Infertility treatment includes drugs, surgery, artificial insemination and assisted conception techniques, such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF). Some patients await treatment on general waiting lists — for example, in gynaecology — and it is not possible to disaggregate those by diagnosis or condition.

Photo of Patricia Lewsley Patricia Lewsley Social Democratic and Labour Party

Does the Minister envisage that in future those details might be separated so that we can see the number of people on a waiting list, particularly for infertility treatment? Given the expense of private treatment for infertility, has the Minister any plans to improve availability of the service and to reduce the waiting times for consultations?

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

There are two difficulties with regard to the future. One is obvious in today’s context; the other is that, on an increasing number of issues, Members have asked about disaggregating the information to a level which simply is not possible. It is difficult to acquire the information, and it would place the system under added pressure.

With regard to improving the service, it was precisely because this was such a difficult matter and because there was no publicly funded sub-fertility service, that I decided to proceed with an interim service while working on what should be provided in future. The interim service provides only limited service, based on existing resources. However, I emphasise that it enables some couples to have access to publicly funded sub-fertility treatment, which, formerly, was provided only privately.