Single women and lesbians will soon be able to get free fertility treatment on the NHS, according to reports.

Currently the Health Service allows one free IVF cycle to mixed-sex couples where the woman is under 40. Some health trusts are now saying they will extend the offer of one treatment to single or lesbian women who are experiencing fertility problems, at the same priority as a married couple.

The move comes after fears that the NHS could be challenged under human rights laws if it fails to treat lesbians and single women the same as straight couples.

Ethical campaigners warned the idea was a further erosion of the traditional family unit.

Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, told the Daily Mail, “As the legislation stands clinics should take on board the need for a father.”

“We believe there should be respect for the intention of the law. People have to have the courage to say that the ideal is to have a mother and father in a stable relationship. With IVF, too often the focus is on the single woman or the “commissioning couple” and not on the welfare of the child. The child should come first.”

The new policy was drawn up and agreed to by primary care trusts in the Thames Valley area, which covers Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Camden Primary Care Trust in London is also rumoured to be considering free treatment for single women.

A spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said they can treat single women and lesbians only if they think the role of a father-figure has been sufficiently considered.

The Department of Health say that women should be treated based on clinical need, regardless of sexual orientation. A spokesman said that National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE,) who publish guidance on health issues, stated treatment should be given to couples with fertility problems, “We cannot force trusts to follow NICE guidance but we do expect them to adhere to it.”

A NICE spokesman said: “Anyone who meets the clinical criteria set out in the guideline should be eligible for fertility treatment.”