With around 1 in 7 couples requiring fertility treatment, more and more couples are searching for specialists to help them conceive. With around 150 licensed clinics in the UK, not only do couples have choice, but with the strict regulations in place, by the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), patients can have the peace of mind that all centres adhere to a code of practice, which ensures safe treatment.
However, with variety, comes that tricky aspect of choosing and unfortunately, there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. What’s right for one couple is not necessarily right for another. In order to make an informed decision about which clinic to have treatment at factors such as costs, success rates, support and more need to be considered. The location of the clinic and general timings of the appointment are also incredibly important, because they will need to fit around your day to day schedule. Every clinic will be able to provide you with this information so take some time to read through their information carefully.
In this article, we will discuss some of the things to consider when trying to choose a clinic. This article does not provide an exhaustive list of considerations, but will act as a starting point and act as a guide.
Usually, the starting point, when struggling to conceive, is to see your GP who may be able to provide some general guidance and advice. Depending on your circumstances and medical history, they may refer you to a Gynaecologist or fertility specialist for tests, which, following a diagnosis may lead to fertility treatment.
Patients can generally self-refer for private treatment, however to be considered for NHS funded treatment, you will need a letter from your GP. A number of NHS hospitals, due to the specific rules around funding, do offer private treatment. Likewise, some private clinics are able to offer NHS funded treatment. Therefore, if seeking NHS funded treatment, your choice of clinics will certainly be limited, though this does not mean that the quality of care you receive will be any less than a private clinic.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), recommends that women under the age of forty should be funded for up to three full cycles of IVF/ICS treatment, if they have been trying to conceive for two years or more. For women aged 40 – 42, who have not previously had IVF are entitled to one cycle of treatment, using their own eggs.
Unfortunately, due to the limited funding available most Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) can only afford to offer one cycle of treatment, if they fund at all. Overall, the number of cycles varies from one CCG to another.
Your CCG will be determined by the GP surgery that you are registered with, and not your residential address.
Individual CCGs fund treatment with specific providers (hospitals and private clinics) and therefore, if you are eligible for treatment, your choice of treatment centre will be restricted to a specific list.
We will be publishing a more detailed article on NHS funding, along with a list of which providers each CCG is contracted with, in the near future.
If you’re unsure where to look, you can discover NHS fertility clinics here.
The cost of private treatment varies from clinic to clinic and can range from £6,000 – £15,000. Typically, the reason for the variation is due to the additional costs that are associated with treatment. Whilst the basic cost of IVF/ ICSI treatment ranges from somewhere between £3,500 – £4,000 (excluding medication), the total cost can quickly add up once blood and other tests, scans and add-on services are added. Usually, NHS hospitals offering private treatment do not charge for these additional tests.
The cost of medication associated with treatment is the second biggest expense after the cost of the actual treatment. Medication costs can range from £800 – £1,500 on average. This cost varies, based on the medication and dosages required, which is determined by the age and medical history of the patient.
The HFEA also requires clinics to give patients an individually costed treatment plan before you start so that you can have a realistic idea of how much you are going to spend. However, please do bear in mind that certain costs, such as medication, cannot be pre-determined and have to therefore be estimated.
If you’re looking for private treatments look here for all of your available options.
As discussed, funding will play an important part in the choice of clinics available. For NHS funded treatment, the choice of clinics will be restricted to only those with that are contracted by your CCG.
For privately funded treatment, your choice is generally unlimited and therefore some of the key considerations may be:
The HFEA publishes all UK clinics’ results periodically. Please visit the HFEA website for the latest success rates
As discussed above, NHS clinics offering private fertility treatment will generally be cheaper and will include a number of tests within their pricing, whilst private clinics often charge separately for tests. It is therefore important to understand the likely costs and be aware that there is more to it than just the actual treatment costs.
Generally, a cycle of IVF/ICSI treatment will require frequent appointments to the clinic for tests and therefore whilst the success rates and costs will play a huge role in determining which clinic you choose for treatment, please do not underestimate the importance of the location. If you are a working professional or other commitments, you will want short travel times and easy journeys. Please review and perhaps short-list your preferred clinics on fertilico.com.
Whilst these may be some of the primary considerations, there are other factors to think about. For example, does the clinic offer the type of treatment that you need? Some clinics only offer intra-uterine insemination (IUI) treatment and not IVF/ICSI. Other, more specialist of less common treatments such as Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening (PGS) or even treatment using donated sperm/eggs, surrogacy etc, may not be available at certain clinics. It is therefore important to see whether a particular clinic meets your needs.
Some clinics also develop an expertise in particular areas, such as Natural Cycles (where minimal or not drugs are used), Sperm Washing (whereby the sperm of the male partner is put through a process to remove infectious viruses, such as HIV, so that it is not passed onto the patient or the offspring born).
The HFEA and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) carry our regular inspections of clinics and publish reports. These reports can be accessed via their respective websites, but for ease of you, we have included the links to the individual clinics’ reports at fertilico.com. It must be noted that these reports can be technical and will focused on the compliance side and therefore, should not be seen as the ultimate guide. All clinics adhere to a certain standard or face closure by the HFEA.
Patient experience is perhaps a better guide to choosing a clinic. Try and find patient reviews for clinics, to get a general feel of other patients’ experiences. However, like with any reviews, you will find different opinions that are sometimes the complete opposite of each other and again this should be used cautiously. We are aiming to include patient reviews on Fertilico, so please do hare your own experience on our site.
Ultimately, perhaps the best guide when deciding on a clinic is how you feel when you are there. How do you feel when you are there? Are the team welcoming and friendly? Do you feel comfortable with the doctors, the nurses, the administrative team?
Many clinics hold Open Days, to talk to prospective patients about treatment, so do look out for these and book to arrange a visit. Outside of the open days, clinics are generally happy for patients to arrange a visit to look around and speak with members of the team and will often allocate some time to you.
To see if a clinic is holding an Open Day, click here.
All licensed clinics should offer counselling, but it might not always be included in the cost of the treatment. Be sure to ask whether you are expected to pay additionally for any counselling treatment you might need.
It is also worth enquiring about waiting times for the initial appointment as well as for treatment start. Most clinics in the UK do not have long waits, but there may be a delay in NHS clinics, due to funding and capacity issues. Though, this is rare.
The HFEA requires all UK licences clinics to submit their treatment outcomes, which are collated and published on their website. Patients can review clinics’ results based on criteria such as age range and treatment type. Look out for clinical pregnancies (positive pregnancy test, following treatment) and live birth rates. Live Birth rate data is usually from around two years ago, due to the nature of the information.
Many people choose to travel overseas for fertility treatment, but it isn’t always for everybody. You can discover international fertility clinics here and decide whether this is the right option for you. Some UK clinics will do some research for you, which can be reassuring.
You should also do plenty of research yourself, such as finding people who have had good experiences at these clinics before. Make sure you ask plenty of questions and find out if there are English speaking employees who will be able to communicate effectively with you during your treatment. The cost of travel and accommodation can soon add up so make sure you take this into consideration too.
Hopefully, this article has provided you with a starting point and some of the factors to consider when choosing a clinic for treatment. As a general piece of advice, you have to choose a clinic that you feel comfortable with and one that meets your needs. Therefore, do take some time to look at options and seek guidance from your GP as well as friends and family members.
Contact the clinics for further information. You will find all the contact information and easy to use the contact form on our website.
Lastly, please do provide us with feedback on this article and feel free to suggest topics for future articles.