As you may know, IVF equality for same sex couples is something I am vehemently passionate about and I have been a strong advocate for LGBT+ rights generally since being elected to Parliament.
In England, decisions about NHS fertility services are determined locally, taking account of National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) fertility guidelines. As such, local NHS bodies are expected to commission fertility services in line with the NICE guidelines so that there is equal access across England.
The existing NICE fertility guidelines include provision for same sex couples who have demonstrated their clinical infertility through six failed cycles of artificial insemination. If this is the case, these couples are offered a further 6 cycles of unstimulated intrauterine insemination before proceeding to IVF. The criteria in the guidelines were developed as a way of achieving equivalence between opposite-sex and same-sex couples in establishing clinical infertility and accessing NHS fertility treatment services.
However, NICE has begun a review of these guidelines which will consider whether the current recommendations for access to NHS-funded treatment are still appropriate. This is expected to be ready in 2024 and I look forward to further action being taken to redress any remaining inequalities for LGBT+ people.
I wholeheartedly agree that no couple should face disproportionate or unequal costs in their efforts to overcome fertility issues. Therefore, I am glad that NICE is reviewing the existing guidelines. The Department for Health and Social Care also undertook an internal review of access to NHS fertility services last year and its findings informed the Government's Women’s Health Strategy published in July 2022.
In this, the Government committed to eliminating additional barriers to IVF for same-sex couples and removed the requirement for them to pay for artificial insemination to prove their fertility status. Moreover, NHS treatment for female same-sex couples will now start with 6 cycles of artificial insemination prior to accessing IVF services, if necessary. I am pleased the Department is currently working with NHS England to implement this through local Integrated Care Boards, with the intention that this change is made before the summer.
The Women’s Health Strategy also outlined several ten-year ambitions including a commitment to work with NHS England to address the current geographical variation in access to NHS-funded fertility services across England. I applaud its commitment to ensure that same-sex couples can access NHS-funded fertility services in a more equitable way.
While I appreciate there is more to be done, I remain determined that everyone in the UK should be free to live their lives and fulfil their potential regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
The LGBT community must be free to prosper in modern Britain.