18/09/2006

Age for fertility treatment rises

Health Minister Paul Goggins has today announced changes to the criteria that allows couples to access publicly funded fertility services in Northern Ireland.

The announcement follows the findings of a consultation exercise about the future of publicly funded fertility services in Northern Ireland.

The main changes include: couples with a medically diagnosed cause for infertility will no longer have to wait for a qualifying period before becoming eligible for treatment; the maximum age limit for women accessing the service is increased from 37 to 39; counselling services for those considering publicly funded fertility treatment will be improved; all qualifying couples should be offered one cycle of publicly funded treatment; couples with children will now be able to access publicly funded fertility services.

Commenting on the announcement, Mr Goggins said: “Infertility is a distressing condition which affects many couples who long to have a child to make their family complete. We have taken account of the wide range of views expressed during the public consultation and have decided that, as far as possible, we should widen access to the service.

“Specifically, couples with diagnosed infertility will no longer be subject to a qualifying period before receiving publicly funded fertility treatment. Also, the upper age limit for a female partner using her own eggs will be increased from 37 to 39, and those couples with dependent children living with them will be able to access publicly funded fertility services.”

The Minister continued: “In line with the position in England and Wales, all qualifying couples should be offered one cycle of publicly-funded IVF treatment. The flexibility to provide more that one cycle will depend on the demand for the service and the funding available from commissioners.

“I have also decided to permit clinicians to take full account of all of the specific circumstances where one person in a couple has been voluntarily sterilised.

“The decision on whether to use fertility treatment can be very difficult for some couples. It is a time at which the best advice and support should be available to help them make the decision that is right for them. I intend to make counselling services more accessible for those couples considering fertility treatment so they have all the necessary advice and support they need.”

An information pack to publicise the revised criteria for the public and medical professionals is due to be launched shortly by the DHSSPS.

(EF/SP)

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