Scottish couples trying to start a family are set to receive three cycles of IVF treatment on the NHS.
The Scottish Government announced the move yesterday to offer three cycles – which is more than is currently available in some parts of England and Wales.
Public health minister Aileen Campbell defended the spending at a time of pressure on accident and emergency departments and waiting times.
Ms Campbell said: “We have always had a commitment towards ensuring there is as equitable access to IVF as there possibly can be and we had a number of recommendations presented to us that we accepted from the national infertility group.
“One of these included ensuring that couples could get access to three cycles of IVF. That is today what we are taking forward.”
She said: “The very positive announcement of allowing couples who are desiring to have a family to get access to three cycles has been welcomed across the different fertility organisations.”
The Scottish National Party minister said money had been “put aside” to fund the IVF programme. Asked how she squared this with other demands on funding in the Scottish NHS, she said: “We have got a fairly strong record across Scotland on our NHS. Some of our A&Es have outperformed the lion’s share of England’s A&Es. We are outperforming A&Es across the UK and have done for some months. We have good investment levels in the NHS and we have record numbers of staff. “We have got a commitment to our NHS that we will invest more money in our NHS than any of the other parties that stood in the election.”
From 1 April, new patients referred for IVF treatment may be eligible for three full cycles rather than two, after the change was recommended by the National Fertility Group in its report to ministers last year.
Gwenda Burns, branch co-ordinator for Fertility Network Scotland said: “This is wonderful news for both patients and campaigners: for the one in six couples in Scotland who face the devastation and heartbreak of fertility struggles it is a fantastic beacon of hope; for Fertility Network UK it is the news we have been working towards with the National Infertility Group, since the latter’s inception in 2010.”
Scottish Labour’s health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “Scottish Labour argued in its manifesto for an increase in the number of full cycles of IVF available to couples from two to three. This is a very welcome and long-overdue announcement from the Scottish Government.”