In Vitro Fertilisation

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Health and Wellbeing – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:16 pm on 25th June 2009.

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Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour 2:16 pm, 25th June 2009

To ask the Scottish Executive what it is doing to guarantee that all national health service boards offer three cycles of NHS-funded in vitro fertilisation treatment to those who are eligible. (S3O-7557)

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

As I indicated to Parliament last month, we are funding Infertility Network Scotland to work with NHS boards across Scotland, concentrating in particular on boards that do not fulfil the recommendations in infertility guidance, including current recommendations on the number of cycles offered to patients.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

I am pursuing this question on behalf of constituents of mine who have been critical of the two courses of treatment that they received, feeling that they did not constitute full and fresh treatment. I will pursue the matter with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, but I would be grateful if the minister could indicate the timescale for persuading the health board to deliver three cycles. Such a move would offer some hope to my constituents, who are considering having private treatment that they can ill afford.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde includes in one cycle of treatment the transfer of frozen as well as fresh embryos, which, in effect, means that patients in that health board area receive more chances for treatment than those in the many other areas where boards allow only two fresh transfers and one frozen transfer. I am sure that the member will understand that point.

As far as timescales are concerned, I have already informed Parliament of our intention to establish this summer the expert advisory group on infertility services, which will consider the draft action plan and some of the changes that will be required. As Margaret Curran will acknowledge, these are long-standing problems that were probably not given the attention in the past that they deserved. Indeed, that is why we are moving forward with the expert advisory group. We are very determined to pay attention to those issues and to ensure that people, no matter where they live in Scotland, are not disadvantaged.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

Against the background of the work that is being done and, indeed, of Helen Eadie's members' business debate last month, will the minister examine the varying age limits and body mass index levels that are used to exclude women from IVF treatment to ensure that there is a consistent approach across Scotland?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

The upper age limit should be 39 years inclusive, which means that, in effect, the woman should not have reached her 40 th birthday.

With regard to BMI levels, I have to say that at the moment a woman's weight is not one of the access criteria for infertility treatment. Because clinical decisions are involved, we expect clinicians to follow the relevant clinical guidelines such as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance on fertility. I am sure that the expert advisory group will be able to consider the issue, but the fact is that, wherever the age limit is drawn, people will still fall outside it. As these matters are finely balanced, we have to seek expert advice. That is why we have set up the group, which will meet over the summer to come up with advice and conclusions for ministers.