Older women exploited by IVF clinics ‘trading on hope’, watchdog warns

Older women are being exploited by IVF clinics “trading on hope” despite just two a year achieving success after the age of 44, the fertility watchdog has warned.

Some clinics have been charging four times as much as they should, at up to £20,000 per cycle, according to the fertility watchdog.
Some clinics have been charging four times as much as they should, at up to £20,000 per cycle, according to the fertility watchdog.

Sally Cheshire, chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), said some private clinics were using “selective success rates” to target older women.

Mrs Cheshire said some centres were charging four times as much as they should, at up to £20,000 per cycle, as she called for the regulator to be given powers to clamp down on profiteering.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

New figures published yesterday show the number of women undergoing fertility treatment in the UK has doubled since 2004 to 10,835 cases in 2017.

Eligible patients who are new referrals have been offered up to three cycles of IVF where there is a reasonable expectation of a live birth, in Scotland since 1 April 2017.

Mrs Cheshire said she had been offered IVF treatments by clinic staff who were not aware of her role when she visited a fertility show in Manchester. She said: “We now see things like ‘guaranteed baby or your money back’.

“Some of the private sector clinics use very selective success rates in their sales tactics, which we are also trying to stop, because they need to be honest about their results by age group, by category of patient – all of which is available on our website.”

She said she wanted clinics to be honest about success rates, adding: “What the clinics shouldn’t be doing is trading on that hope – that hope and vulnerability. They should be honest and transparent about a woman or a couple’s chances.”

The Scottish Government say their target for IVF referral has been exceeded for the past three years.

They have said over the past 18 months all eligible patients have started treatment within a year of referral. Over the past five years, the Government have invested around £28 million to reduce IVF waiting times and improve the outcomes for patients.

Shadow health spokesperson Miles Briggs said: “It is incredibly important that women and couples have all the information they need when starting on an IVF journey at what can be an incredibly emotional time.

“It is welcome news that we are seeing more opportunities for women and couples to access fertility treatment and start a family. However, it is also paramount that any women or couple embarking on a fertility treatment pathway has an honest and transparent discussion with their clinician.”