For couples and individuals who want to conceive, but haven’t been able to do so naturally, IVF may help them to achieve that outcome. 

Whether it is conducted privately or through the NHS, IVF treatment has no guarantee of success. Both NHS hospitals and private clinics are looking to achieve the best outcome for every procedure and for every patient.  Some NHS hospitals also outsource some of their work to private clinics.

What are the benefits of IVF through the NHS?

  • If you qualify for NHS funding, you can have IVF without paying for it yourself. If you need more than one cycle of IVF, this can potentially save you thousands of pounds. 

  • Having NHS funded IVF, also means that you don’t have to go through the lengthy process of comparing private clinics to find the best option for you, in terms of treatment, cost, reputation and location.

Who qualifies for NHS funded IVF?

The NICE guidelines state that women aged under 40, who have failed to fall pregnant after 2 years of trying, should be offered 3 full cycles of IVF.

They also say that women between the age of 40 and 42 should be offered one cycle of IVF on the NHS, if the following criteria are met: 

  • they’ve been trying to get pregnant through regular unprotected sex for two years, or haven’t been able to get pregnant after 12 cycles of artificial insemination 

  • they’ve never had IVF treatment before

(note: it’s worth bearing in mind that if you have private IVF treatment before asking for treatment from the NHS, it MAY still be counted as one of your 3 eligible cycles, even though it was self-funded). 

Although the NICE guidelines are in place, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) across the country have their own, individual criteria, for who qualifies for NHS funded IVF in their area. So one region can be vastly different from another.

Additional criteria to qualify may include some of the following: not having children already (with a current or previous partner) being a healthy weight, not smoking or being younger than the NICE guidelines state. 

The best way to find out if you qualify for NHS funding is to ask your GP, who will be aware of your own personal circumstances, medical history and the CCG conditions in your area.

What are the benefits of privately funded IVF?

  • If you don’t meet the criteria for NHS funded IVF, privately funded IVF is another option open to you

  • By opting to go to a private clinic and paying for your treatment, you may get treated much more quickly than if you are on an NHS waiting list

  • The level of care may differ, for example, in a small, private fertility clinic, you may see the same staff throughout your treatment, whereas in a big hospital, you may see different staff each time.
Successful IVF can be funded both privately and via the NHS
Successful IVF can be both private and NHS

Is there a difference in the success rates for private and NHS treatments?

All hospitals and clinics are required to record their IVF success rates, but not all clinics record them using the same criteria, especially with clinics abroad, so it can be tricky to make a fair comparison. 

For example, 3 different, but common ways of reporting IVF success rates are:

  • Births per embryo transferred

  • Births per egg collection

  • Births per cycle of treatment

Every individual is different too, so it’s important when looking at success rates, that you look at figures for patients of a similar age to yourself, with a similar history and similar diagnosis.  

At the IVF network, we are aware that lots of choices can be involved when it comes to fertility treatment. That’s why, through our dedicated channel, website and blog posts, we provide a range of information and advice, to support you on your fertility journey.