A lesbian couple in Manchester are taking legal action against the NHS after claiming they were turned down for fertility treatment because they are in a same-sex relationship.

The Manchester Evening Post reports the couple, who are both aged 38 and are in a civil partnership, had sought IVF at St Mary’s Hospital in the city after insemination using a private donor failed to work. They say that delays to their treatment mean it is now “almost impossible” for them to have a baby.

Guidelines drawn up in 2011 by the Central Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group say that same-sex couples are eligible for fertility treatment.

The couple complained to the hospital, a meeting was arranged and they claim that they received an apology.

Geraldine O’Reilly, acting for the couple on behalf of O’Neill Patient Solicitors LLP, said: “Despite vital legal protections for same-sex couples it appears that many people are still finding it difficult to access treatment because of varying policies across trusts.”

Central Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group said all couples could receive IVF funding if they met criteria set out in the “assisted conception policy”.

A spokesman said: “This applies the same criteria to same-sex couples as it does to heterosexual couples.

“We would be happy to discuss this matter with the couple in question if they wish to contact us directly.”

Central Manchester Hospitals NHS Trust declined to comment.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended that same-sex couples be offered artificial insemination on the NHS for six cycles before moving on to IVF if that fails.