Scottish government to fund extra IVF treatment for couples

IVF is currently not offered through the Irish public health service, although tax relief can be claimed

Scottish government to fund extra IVF treatment for couples

File photo. Picture by: Andy Wong/AP/Press Association Images

The Scottish government has announced it is going to pay for three cycles of IVF treatment for eligible couples.

The country's public health minister Aileen Campbell has announced funds have been put aside to roll out the programme, which will increase the number of treatment cycles from two to three.

A cycle refers to the multiple-stage process of retrieving eggs, fertilising the eggs in a lab, and transferring viable embryos into the uterus.

The Scottish government says an extra round of treatment will increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.

BBC reports that women under 40 would be eligible for three cycles, while women aged between 40 and 42 would be offered a single cycle if they fit specific criteria.

The new Scottish rules will apply from April 1st for new patients referred for IVF treatment on the National Health Service (NHS).

Mrs Campbell said: "For couples struggling to conceive it can be a very difficult time and IVF can provide an opportunity to help them have that longed-for baby.

"We want to make access to treatment on the NHS as fair as possible - giving more people the opportunity to conceive [...] These changes make NHS IVF access in Scotland by far the fairest and most generous in the UK."

She told BBC Radio 4: "We have always had a commitment towards ensuring there is as equitable access to IVF as there possibly can be and we had a number of recommendations presented to us that we accepted from the national infertility group."

The report - which was published last March - recommended the change as long as funding was affordable. 

Gwenda Burns of Fertility Network Scotland praised the move, saying: "This is wonderful news for both patients and campaigners: for the one in six couples in Scotland who face the devastation and heartbreak of fertility struggles it is a fantastic beacon of hope."

Currently, IVF treatment is not available through the Irish public health service, though there are some tax supports.

In February 2016, Leo Varadkar - who was health minister at the time - confirmed that public funding is set to be made available for fertility treatment, along with new laws governing the area.