THE first private fertility clinic to open in Scotland is to close its doors – leaving couples who use its services without a specialist facility in the east of the country.
Hundreds of couples in the Lothians and other eastern areas have been seeking IVF and other fertility treatments from specialists at Spire Shawfair Park Hospital in Edinburgh.
Many couples wanting children have been refused NHS treatments after being told they do not meet criteria on factors such as weight, smoking and age.
Until now they have been able to pay for private services at IVF Scotland at Shawfair, but bosses have revealed it will close next month, saying easier access to NHS Scotland treatments for many couples has led to a reduction in people seeking their help.
Gwenda Burns, Scottish branch co-ordinator of Infertility Network Scotland – which represented patients on the Scottish Government’s National Infertility Group aimed at improving fertility treatment in Scotland – said the clinic’s closure would create major difficulties for a number of patients. Couples in the east of Scotland who do not meet NHS fertility criteria will have to travel to private hospitals in Glasgow or further afield.
Ms Burns said: “The reduction in NHS waiting times to almost 12 months or below to have IVF treatment has made a huge difference to patients throughout Scotland. However, patients still need to meet NHS criteria to be able to access NHS treatment, such as having a BMI [body mass index] above 18 and below 30, both partners non-smoking, never had sterilisation, age and no children living in the home.
“Therefore, there will continue to be a need for patients to have an option for private treatment. Unfortunately, the closure of IVF Scotland will limit patients’ choice for private treatment in the east of Scotland and surrounding areas.”
Officials at IVF Scotland at Spire Shawfair Park Hospital have written to patients – who were paying around £5-6,000 for treatment – saying it was to close from February.
Fertility treatment in Scotland has undergone a £12 million shake-up. As of July 2013, eligible couples were guaranteed a maximum of two full cycles of IVF until the woman’s 40th birthday. Women aged between 40 and 42 were offered one full IVF cycle. From March, eligible couples will start treatment within 12 months providing they meet all necessary conditions.
The specialist facility is one of just a few in the UK to have offered a personalised IVF clinic solely dedicated on giving couples the best chance possible of conceiving a child.
Every patient was appointed two embryologists to oversee an individual’s embryos to be used in treatments and all embryos were cultured in the facility’s laboratory. It claimed to have some of the highest success rates in Scotland.
The letter from hospital director Dr Andrew Eadsforth said: “We are sad to announce that after five successful years treating patients at IVF Scotland, the difficult decision has been taken to close the IVF clinic effective from 28 February.
“Over the past few years NHS Scotland’s funding for fertility treatment has changed significantly and whilst we’re delighted that more patients are able to access funded treatments via the NHS this does mean that the clinic has seen a reduction in patients since the clinic opened.
“As NHS-funded places continue to increase and waiting times come down, it is inevitable that the clinic’s numbers will continue to decline and so we have reached the difficult conclusion to close.”
Elayne Greene, IVF Scotland manager, said: “Our patients are our priority and all have received letters detailing how the closure may affect them.”