A FERTILITY charity has spoken out against the postcode lottery which sees Swindon’s residents offered fewer opportunities to become pregnant through IVF treatment than those living in other parts of the country.

The chances of becoming pregnant are around 25 per cent from the one cycle of IVF treatment offered in Swindon since April, whereas they previously followed national guidelines suggesting three full cycles, which raises success rates to 70 per cent.

Susan Seenan, the chief executive of Fertility Network UK, said: “Swindon were actually one of the better providers in the country, but in April this year they reduced their offering to one cycle. That goes completely against NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidance.

“The NICE recommendations are based on cost as well as what is clinically effective. Offering those three cycles is the most clinically effective way, but also the most cost effective. That is because quite often the first cycle is a diagnostic cycle. It does not always work, because they do not always get the drugs right first time.”

Among the lucky couples with a successful experience of IVF are Sergio Russu, 44, and his wife, Ewa, 37, who gave birth to their first son, now one-and-a-half, in Swindon following successful treatment.

But Sergio said he understood the pressure on the NHS to make difficult decisions: “It is a difficult position for me to say that one cycle is enough because we were successful with one.

“But if a system can’t pay for everything then you have to make choices. At the end of the day, if they don’t have the money, they don’t have the money.”

Explaining why this should be a priority for the NHS, Susan said: “The reason it’s so important is that if couples have a fertility problem, then it’s a medical problem. Until you’ve been through it, it’s impossible to understand the impact it has.

“If you go up to three full cycles you go up from a 25-30 per cent chance of getting pregnant, up to around 70 per cent for three cycles.”

NICE guidelines say patients should be offered three full cycles of IVF treatment, each including one fresh cycle and a number of frozen embryos.

A spokesman for the Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), who set the treatment offered in the town, said: “We have reviewed our Assisted Conception Policy and from 1 April 2017 we have aligned this with our Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) footprint partners, Wiltshire and Bath and North East Somerset (BaNES) CCGs.

“We now offer one fresh cycle with a maximum two frozen embryo transfers.

“IVF is a high-cost treatment and the CCG is required to ensure that we balance the funding for this treatment alongside many other cost pressures in our local NHS.

“Before the changes were made to our policy, Swindon CCG undertook an extensive engagement process of IVF services with our local population.”