The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recently announced new recommendations for fertility treatment. These recommendations do not guarantee any increased funding to implement them and therefore it will likely still leave couples trying to conceive to have to find other ways of funding IVF, including claiming compensation to fund IVF treatment if infertility has been caused by negligent medical treatment.
Previously NICE recommended that, only after trying to conceive for 3 years, women under the age of 39 should receive three free cycles of IVF to assist them to conceive. Under new recommendations announced in February 2013, couples could receive up to three cycles of IVF after two years of trying to conceive (instead of waiting three years). The other change is that one cycle of IVF can also be offered to women aged between 40-42 as long as it is their first time and they have enough eggs.
Whilst these new recommendations will be welcome to couples trying to conceive, the concerns voiced by the treatment providers is that the recommendations simply cannot be implemented because they do not have enough funding even to fully implement the previous recommendations. The recommendations are not binding and do not guarantee increased funding being made available. Each treatment centre can only implement what they can afford within the budget they are given, and the majority at present cannot afford to offer couples the maximum three cycles of IVF.
In July 2012 it was reported that it was more difficult to get funding for fertility treatment in the UK than almost any other European country. Unless additional funding is secured to provide better IVF treatment in the UK this leaves couples having to look for alternative ways of trying to privately fund IVF treatment to help them to conceive. If infertility has been caused by negligent medical treatment then one option available is claiming compensation to fund IVF treatment.
I recently obtained compensation for a young woman who will likely suffer problems conceiving, and will require IVF, due to negligent hospital treatment. My client was admitted to hospital with suspected appendicitis and underwent surgery to remove her appendix. The Surgeon who performed the operation, who was not appropriately trained for the procedure, negligently left part of the appendix in place which led to our client suffering from significant infection leading to bowel obstruction and adhesions. Our client required 2 further operations to repair the damage caused during the first negligent operation.
My client was only 28 years old at this time, and had not yet tried to conceive any children, but had always planned to have 2 children. She was advised by medical experts that, as a result of the generalised peritonitis she suffered due to the negligent treatment, she had probably suffered significant damage to her reproductive organs which would likely have adversely affected her fertility, and also increased her risk of having an ectopic pregnancy if she did conceive. Her claim for compensation included significant compensation for her to fund IVF treatment. We were advised by fertility experts that our client may require up to 5 cycles of IVF for each child that she wanted to have, so potentially up to 10 cycles for 2 children, to give her the best chance of conceiving, at a cost of approximately £6,000 per cycle on a privately paying basis.
My client could not guarantee receiving IVF funded by the NHS. Even with the new recommendations an NHS funded fertility treatment provider could likely not offer her the five cycles of IVF she may require per child, and she would have to wait at least two years before starting IVF, and therefore she had no choice but to claim these costs in compensation to enable her to commence IVF as early as possible. We were able to recover these costs for our client and give her the best chance of conceiving the children she had always planned for before suffering the injuries she did as a result of medical negligence.
Unfortunately our experience is that it is not uncommon for fertility to be affected as a result of complications during medical treatment, particularly surgical complications which can often lead to infection causing damage to reproductive organs. If this has happened to you it is important to seek the advice of a specialist medical negligence solicitor as early as possible to ensure that appropriate compensation is claimed to pay for fertility treatment.