If you’re not eligible for IVF treatment on the NHS – or if you’d simply rather go private – lots of private clinics around England and Wales will be happy to treat you.
Here's what you need to know…
How much does private IVF treatment cost in England?
Market research firm Opinium compiled data from 70 fertility clinics in March 2018, and found that the price for a single IVF cycle ranges from £2,650 to £4,195 (with the average being £3,348). Prices were often higher outside London – with clinics in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Southampton and Oxford being among the most expensive. That might seem surprising, but there's intense competition for your ovaries in the capital.
Those fees usually don't include registration/consultation fees, sedation, blood tests or fertility drugs – the costs of which vary from clinic to clinic. All in all, you'll end up spending anywhere between £3,855 and £7,175 for a single cycle.
But what else should you consider when deciding between private clinics? And do you even need to use a private clinic in the first place? Read on…
Who’s eligible (and not) for IVF treatment on the NHS?
Read this article on “Who’s eligible for NHS-funded IVF treatment?” to find out if you’re covered or not.
I’m not eligible for NHS-funded IVF treatment (or I want to be treated privately). Can I definitely get private IVF treatment?
If you’ve been refused NHS treatment for medical/health reasons (e.g. your weight or age), it most definitely doesn’t mean you’re a lost cause for IVF. The NHS has very strict criteria because it’s using taxpayers’ money to help people get pregnant; it has a duty to select patients who are most likely to benefit (preferably first time round) from fertility treatment.
When you go private, you’re the one paying – which means the clinic’s duty is to you and no one else. As a result, you’re bound to find a clinic somewhere willing to treat you: there are no age limits (or indeed any other limits) for fertility treatment in UK law, so it all comes down to criteria set by individual clinics.
To see the criteria for a particular clinic, you can either visit that clinic’s website and look around for it there, or call up the clinic to ask, or use this search for a clinic service from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) – the UK’s independent regulator of fertility treatment and research using human embryos.
Can I trust that the private clinic actually thinks I can conceive with IVF?
Great question! Clinics tend to have much looser criteria for treatment than the NHS – and that’s both a good thing (for obvious reasons) and potentially a bad thing.
Why might it be a bad thing? Because if you have a combination of factors that make success highly unlikely, you might pay a fortune for treatment and still not be pregnant by the end of it.
Most private clinics aren’t horrible, money-grabbing establishments, of course: if someone clearly doesn’t have a hope in hell of success, they’re not going to want to “trick” that person into paying. They also benefit from decent PR and good results/stats, which means their incentives are aligned with yours: they want to help you if they think they can help, while you only want to pay for treatment if you think there’s a half-decent chance of being up the duff by the end of it.
Nevertheless, do your research before picking a clinic – both to weed out the ones run by scumbags and to find somewhere that’s going to be right for you and your specific needs.
What should I look for when researching private IVF clinics?
The HFEA has lots of “how to choose a clinic”-esque advice across various pages of its website, so I’ve extrapolated it all, summarised it and added some of my own additional comments here:
- Use the HFEA’s search for a clinic service to see and compare the following:
- Success rates (be aware: clinics sometimes present multiple types of success rate, such as “births per cycle of treatment”, “births per embryo transferred” and “births per egg collection”. The HFEA publishes all the data provided by each clinic, and compares it all to the national average)
- Patient ratings (although – as with Yelp and TripAdvisor – remember that the most and least satisfied patients are more inclined to leave a review than those who think the service they received was “fine”)
- Inspector ratings
- Whether you’re eligible for treatment there
- Whether they offer you a comprehensive counselling service as part of your treatment
Tip: don’t use the “Compare” function. Instead, click into each individual clinic after you’ve done the postcode search. That way, you’ll see ALL the information the HFEA has about it.
- Don’t rely solely on success rates. Small differences in rates are usually down to the different types of patients treated. (For example, one clinic may agree to treat over 40s – and its success rate is likely to be lower than a clinic that only treats people aged 40 and younger.) Having said that…
- Make sure the IVF success rate is at least in line with the national average.
- Decide what other factors are important to you. Do you want the clinic to be open on a Saturday? Would you prefer to see a female doctor? Is parking essential? You can find out all this and more on the HFEA’s search for a clinic service.
- Multiple birth rates should be in line with (or lower than) the national average. (It’s far more risky to have multiple babies in one go – for both you and the babies.)
- Compare costs. Fertility clinics are free to set their own costs, which means the same treatment could be markedly more expensive in one place compared to another down the street. (Competition should put the kibosh on that sort of thing, but it doesn’t always.)
Shop around, and make sure you’re comparing like with like. (E.g. some clinics may quote a fee that doesn’t include fertility drugs, freezing leftover embryos or admin costs, whereas others may quote for everything and therefore seem more expensive at first glance.)
- Speak to them about alternatives to IVF. This isn’t something the HFEA mentions, but it might be worth considering. The best, most honest clinics will learn about your fertility problems and – if relevant – suggest alternatives to IVF that might be more successful and/or cheaper. If they don’t discuss alternatives, it may well be because IVF is the best route for you. But you could always ask and see what they say.
NEW!!! I've compiled a list of the top IVF clinics in the UK. While you should definitely research any clinics yourself, my list should help to narrow down your options.
Keep reading… there's more below.
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What are the differences between NHS treatment and private treatment?
Success rates and procedures are no different. (In fact, many NHS hospitals now have an arrangement with private clinics to help them provide services and treatments that the NHS can no longer afford to provide themselves – such as egg retrieval.)
The differences are what you’d expect with anything medical:
- Waiting period to start the IVF process (months on the NHS; within the week for private)
- Eligibility criteria (usually much more relaxed when you go private)
- Appointments (likely to be longer and less rushed when you go private; also more likely to start on time)
- Waiting room (up-to-date magazines, biccies and hot drinks when you go private)
If you want some personal opinions on the differences, try a google search for something like “NHS vs private IVF”.
Is it possible to have IVF on the NHS after trying private treatment?
Your local clinical commissioning group (CCG) makes the final decision about who’s eligible for NHS treatment, and you’ll need to speak to them about their specific rules. (Not sure which CCG you’re with? The simplest “CCG postcode lookup” tool I could find is this one from Stephen Keable.)
Any more questions about private IVF treatment?
The HFEA website has tons of information.