‘I advise fertility patients to go private because of waiting time on the NHS’

Professor Dame Clare Gerada suggested there was too much effort being put into “destigmatising” the life stage.

She also admitted she tells patients who were experiencing infertility to seek private help because waiting lists are so long.

Describing the menopause, she said: “On the whole it is not an illness, it’s just a process you go through.”

She added that she had “never considered the menopause to be a stigmatising process”.

The president of the Royal College of GPs was speaking at an event hosted by infertility charity the Progress Educational Trust.

She said: “We are in terrible state around fertility treatment for men and women in this country.

“Sadly, with most of my patients, I have to advise them to go privately because of waiting times on the NHS.”

Infertility affects one in six couples trying to conceive and research shows it affects both men and women equally.

Official NHS guidelines state women aged under 40 with infertility should be offered three cycles of IVF treatment.

But a postcode lottery means just 13 percent of areas offer this, it was said.

Restrictions in different areas mean patients who are obese, smokers or whose partners have previously had children may not be eligible for treatment, depending on where they live.

Dame Clare said that in her experience “nobody gets three cycles”.

She added: “It’s fairly lucky if you get one cycle. And over the years that I’ve been a GP, the rules have changed so much that even I’m confused.”

Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Educational Trust, said: “Even those patients who do eventually receive treatment have their chances of IVF success jeopardised, either because of delayed NHS investigations or because they are having to save up and go private.”

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is reviewing its guidelines on fertility treatment, which were published in 2013. A revised guideline is expected in 2024.

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