18 April 2023

New survey highlights the concerns of fertility patients about the rollout of public funding for IVF

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Sims IVF

New survey highlights the concerns of fertility patients about the rollout of public funding for IVF High percentage of patients considering delaying their IVF treatment until funding is available

18th April 2023: Lack of clarity about the government’s plans to introduce public funding for IVF treatment is causing widespread concerns for potential patients and could lead one-in-two people to holding off treatment, according to the results of a survey by Sims IVF, the largest fertility provider in Ireland.

More than six months on from the announcement in Budget 2023 of a €10 million allocation for publicly funded IVF, and with limited details available publicly, Sims IVF engaged its patient base and wider network to understand their views, in order to advocate on behalf of patients.

The survey was carried out in March 2023 among 1,088 respondents, who are a combination of current/past fertility patients and those who have not received treatment to date.  

Of those surveyed, 67% had undergone fertility treatment previously.  Among that group, 54% of respondents said they would consider delaying further treatment until public funding is rolled out. The remaining 46% said they would not delay further treatment even if funding came through this year.

Among the total base of respondents (those who had and had not already undergone fertility treatment), 90% were concerned about potential age limits for publicly-funded treatment, whether there will be a limit on the number of IVF cycles funded and what criteria will have to be met to access treatment.

In the survey, respondents were asked to provide detail about their specific concerns* under the themes of eligibility, access and treatment covered.

  • 96% of respondents were concerned about access to IVF treatment in an area convenient for them to travel to
  • 85% were concerned about how many IVF cycles will be covered under public funding
  • 83% of respondents were concerned about whether age limits would apply
  • 53% expressed concern about possible restrictions due to Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • 42% were concerned if LGBTQI+ individuals/couples will be able to avail of treatment
  • 41% expressed concern about whether single women will be able to avail of treatment with donor sperm 

Speaking about the survey results, Mikey O’ Brien, Group Clinic Director of Sims IVF said: “The results of this survey echo the concerns we are hearing from patients in our clinics on a daily basis. There is great deal of uncertainty around the rollout of funding for IVF and potential patients are concerned about if, when and how this public funding model will be implemented.

“They want to know what will be covered and what won’t, so they can make informed decisions about their treatment. If we look at criteria for patients in the UK, there are limitations for eligibility based on age, weight, not having children from previous relationships and other factors.

“One response that stuck out around eligibility was: ‘Please make funding available to all, regardless of above criteria (age, BMI, previous treatment etc). It is already a heartbreaking and highly stressful situation that no one wants to be in, without adding extra conditions that have to be met. Just please help people to create their little family.’

“At Sims IVF, we want industry experts to be involved in the conversation about the rollout, to ensure a–fit-for-purpose funding model is introduced that will help as many people as possible.”

Senator Mary Seery Kearney added: “The results of the survey demonstrate a significant level of anxiety amongst those in need of IVF.  It is important that there is meaningful engagement by the Minister for Health and representative groups to reassure them that the eligibility and access to funding will be broad and inclusive.  The Minister has consistently stated that funding must be preceded by the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill coming into law, this has been paused at committee stage for over a year now, and so it must advance through the Houses of the Oireachtas as a matter of urgency.”

Commenting on the results of the survey, Chairperson of the National Infertility Support and Information Group (NISIG) Caitríona Fitzpatrick said: “The results of the survey published today while deeply worrying, are not surprising. They mirror the stress and anxieties about the lack of information around public funding for IVF that many people are reaching out to us with. While we warmly welcomed the announcement that fertility treatment would finally be provided through public funding from September, there is a real lack of clarity and information about the plans at this stage. We are unclear as who will be able to avail of this treatment, what if any, qualifying criteria will be in place, what the full budget for the treatment will be, where it will be available and what the follow-on plans for 2024 are. Those trying to start a family using fertility treatment already find themselves in a very difficult and stressful situation. It is unacceptable that this situation is exacerbated further by keeping everyone in the dark with regards to the plans for the roll out in September.”

Survey respondents were also given the opportunity to share their concerns, through an open-ended question. Responses fell under the following categories:

  • 19% questioned waiting times, were concerned that there would not be a timely rollout of government-funded services and fears of being “against the clock” as a result;
  • 18% wanted to know what the criteria would be, including whether age and BMI etc. would impact eligibility. Many felt the criteria for qualification was unclear and feared not qualifying due to a number of factors, including health conditions and sexual orientation;
  • 18% were angry over the length of time it has taken to get public funding and were concerned of further exacerbation of  waiting lists for treatment;
  • 12% queried their eligibility for availing of the funding;
  • 12% lack confidence in implementation of public funding, querying whether the rollout would be means-tested and if patients with medical cards would be prioritised;  

6% wanted to know if they would be reimbursed for previous IVF treatment

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