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Health Secretary Matt Hancock seeks IVF equality for same-sex couples

Nick Duffy July 5, 2019
Health Secretary Matt Hancock pledged a review of IVF funding

Health Secretary Matt Hancock pledged a review of IVF funding (Photo: Paul Grace)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that same-sex couples should have equal access to IVF.

Speaking at the PinkNews summer reception in Westminster on Thursday (July 4), Hancock said that sexual orientation should not be a factor in access to IVF.

The availability of IVF fertility services varies widely across the UK, with campaigners attacking an effective “postcode lottery” that sees couples facing vastly different rules.

Matt Hancock: IVF rules will be reviewed

In some local areas, rules require same-sex couples to pay for several private rounds of IVF before they can access NHS treatment, while opposite-sex couples only have to show they have struggled to conceive naturally.

Hancock told the PinkNews reception: “I commit to you this evening that we have begun a review inside the Department for Health and Social Care into IVF equality.

“We have begun that review, and let us see it through to fruition.”

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock leaves 10 Downing Street after the weekly Cabinet meeting on 25 June, 2019
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock leaves 10 Downing Street after the weekly Cabinet meeting on 25 June, 2019. (WIktor Szymanowicz/Getty Images)

He added: “There is so much more to do, and each part of government has its role to play. I, like so many of my colleagues, pledge to you that we will do our bit.”

Hancock, who launched his own brief bid for the Conservative leadership in June, is now a supporter of Boris Johnson who is tipped to keep a Cabinet role if Johnson becomes Prime Minister.

IVF growing in popularity for female same-sex couples

Earlier this year, a report from government agency the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) revealed that there was a 12 percent increase year-on-year in female same-sex couples seeking IVF treatment.

Chair of the HFEA, Sally Cheshire, said that fertility treatments have come “a long way” in the UK and now help more people than ever to create “much longed for families.”

Cheshire said: “We are seeing a gradual change in the reasons why people use fertility treatments, which were originally developed to help heterosexual couples with infertility problems.

“While the increases in same-sex couples, single women and surrogates having fertility treatment are small, this reflects society’s changing attitudes towards family creation, lifestyles and relationships and highlights the need for the sector to continue to evolve and adapt.”

In 2017, more than 54,000 patients underwent around 75,000 fertility treatments, with IVF treatment cycles increasing by 2.5 percent since 2016 and resulting in over 20,500 babies being born.

Only 35 percent of IVF cycles are NHS-funded in England, compared to 62 percent in Scotland, 50 percent in Northern Ireland and 39 percent in Wales.

The PinkNews event took place at Church House in Westminster, London.

The Westminster reception was supported by Gilead and Octopus Group. Pride in London was the charity partner.

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