A take home baby rate of more than 70% would be possible if National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) IVF guidelines were fully adopted nationwide, the latest data from Bourn Hall Clinic has revealed.
The results have been announced to coincide with the first National Infertility Awareness Week, launched by patient charity Infertility Network UK.
Dr Mike Macnamee, chief executive of Bourn Hall Clinic says: “The foresight of the commissioners in the East of England has allowed us to deliver increased success rates while reducing the numbers of multiple pregnancies.”
The NICE guidelines recommend each patient should have up to three cycles of IVF treatment. In 2009, the East of England became the first commissioning group in the UK to accept these recommendations in full and the results are impressive. An analysis of data from Bourn Hall has revealed that by allowing up to three fresh cycles, seven in every 10 women treated became mothers.
However, the East of England model of NHS provision is rare. In 2011, 73% of primary care trusts were offering less than the three cycles recommended by NICE.
Infertility Network UK, the leading patient support group, says that inconsistent adoption of the NICE guidelines across the country creates distress for many couples.
Clare Lewis-Jones, the charity’s chief executive, comments: “One in six couples will experience fertility issues. We decided to create National Infertility Awareness Week, to raise awareness of the physical and emotional impact of infertility and also to refocus infertility as a health issue not a lifestyle choice.
“The consistent patient pathway introduced in the East of England means that patients with symptoms of infertility are properly investigated and the causes diagnosed. Where IVF treatment is required, the data from Bourn Hall demonstrates clearly the benefit of adopting the NICE guidelines in full.”
Bourn Hall provides a centre of excellence in support of NHS hospitals across the six East of England counties and is the leading provider of IVF treatment in the region. There is a clear pathway for all patients; preliminary tests and treatment at a local hospital aim to diagnose the causes of infertility which is then followed by a referral (if required) for specialist IVF treatment.
Over the last five years, Bourn Hall has carried out more than 11,000 cycles of IVF for NHS-funded and self-funded patients. This model is working extremely well with increasing success rates and optimum use of resources.
The live birth rate (LBR) for all patients treated at Bourn Hall continues to improve. The current LBR (2012-13) stands at 38% per cycle of treatment, compared to 30% in 2010-11. Nationally, the LBR for IVF was 24.5% in 2010 (most recent Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority [HFEA] figures). This means that a couple eligible for NHS funded IVF is 50% more likely to take home a baby after each attempt at Bourn Hall than the national average.
Before the NICE guidelines were introduced in the East of England, some patients had the chance of only one cycle of IVF and many considered that the risk of failure was too great an emotional strain.
Childhood sweethearts Helen and Adam Wells, from Chelmsford in Essex, were referred for IVF by their consultant at BroomfieldHospital after three years of trying for a baby.
Adam says: “As time went on, we got increasingly down in the dumps. The longer it took, the more pressure built up and the situation put our relationship under a bit of strain. It was just frustrating; it felt like life was on hold.”
Helen adds: “It was tough, but we always felt we were on the same team. The problem was, we felt we were on the losing team, which became very disheartening for both of us. Although neither of us wanted to apportion blame, we ended up blaming ourselves for our perceived failure.”
After treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic, the couple’s daughter Abigail was born in March this year. They describe her as “the light of our lives”.
The East of England success is particularly remarkable as it follows the decision in January 2009 by the HFEA to promote single embryo transfer for women under 37 to minimise the risk of multiple births from IVF treatment. At the time it was introduced there were concerns that this would impact overall success rates.
However, by implementing a policy of blastocyst culture (where the embryo is transferred after five days in the lab) and single embryo transfer, Bourn Hall Clinic has halved the multiple birth rate in line with recommendations and increased pregnancy success, with over 1,500 NHS-funded babies born since 2009.