Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Take a number. Get in line.

I have, in my own quiet way, started taking a few tentative steps toward getting political about the issue of fertility treatment in this country. I would describe my recent efforts as baby-steps in that direction, but oh! The sweet sweet irony!

Even though I'm not still yet fully subsumed into the ART vortex, I feel as though I could write the first chapters of an entire book about the perils and pitfalls of negotiating fertility treatment on the National Health Service in Scotland. But I fear that would bore most of you rigid, and how can I blame you? Let's face it, I wouldn't be particularly intrigued about the finer points of socialised medicine either, were it not a matter I must confront on a seemingly daily basis.

Put briefly, the deal is this. In Scotland, the amount of funding for fertility treatment in each area is up to each local health board. And, for most areas, the policy is that for qualifying couples, up to three IVF cycles will be paid for by the NHS. The catch? One of the criteria to qualify is that the woman must be 38 or under. That doesn't sound so bad on the face of it, but factor in the waiting lists are currently now hovering at 3 to 4 years minimum, it basically means that if you haven't gotten started by the time you are 34, you're already screwed.

It doesn't mean that IVF is not available for women over 38. It is- but most clinics require it to be paid for out of pocket. Bottom line- there is no money and no resource to fund widely available NHS treatment. In other words, if you can afford it, you pay for it. If you can't, you remain untreated and childless.

And when people shake their heads and demand to know why it should be any other way, why IVF should be "free" to couples in need of treatment, I want to beat them about the head with the arm I rip off their body. I've discussed this briefly before, but the difference is now the subject irritates me intensely. It's not fucking "free", OK? Not for me anyway, the taxpayer.

Anyway, in light of all the high pitched wailing that now emits from Minsterial offices on high whenever there is a mention of the dreaded "population" crisis, somebody somewhere has suddenly woken up to the fact that there are plenty of people who would very much like to do their bit for the census statistics, if given half a chance. What's stopping them in many cases? IVF waiting lists. Cut off age of 38.

So now there's some talk about possibly raising the age limit for treatment to 40. What a revelation, a bolt from the blue! As I read of this in one of the local newspaper- a parochial pile of crap that frequently distorts and slants just about everything it touches- I spotted the name of a certain politician who apparently is working for campaigning for better fertility services in Scotland.

I e-mailed her with my views and some of our history. Among other things, I explained that for an infertile couple, the waiting times and expense don't begin at the stage of IVF- that there is plenty of aggravation and cost the minute you step onto the diagnostic path. Example- need an HSG before you can be eligible for IVF? Choice: Wait seven months, or pay £500. Seven months, which bearing in mind the IVF waiting lists and the age limits, may just be the nail in your ART coffin before you have even begun.

The response was immediate- yes, she was working on change. Yes, it was helpful to know of our experiences. Yes, she would take it forward-and could she speak to my doctor to get more insight into the processes? So I gave her Dr Ticktock's name. A week or so later she e-mailed me back to say she had left the doctor a message, and was still waiting to hear back from him.

To which I thought, "Oh, sister. Welcome to my world. Take a number. Get in line."


At 12:04 AM, Blogger E. said...

What a complete mess. I'm sorry you have to deal with such crap. I'm glad you're getting involved and telling your story.

At 12:10 AM, Blogger DeadBug said...

How cool is it that someone with influence is actually interested and active in the fertility arena!?

Taking the initiative to contact her--well done, Mare!


At 3:11 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

While we don't have socialized medicine in the States, we do have the EVIL insurance companies. The pricks at the insurance company will pay for Viagra in the blink of an eye but do everything they can to avoid paying for fertility treatment. Oh wait,they aren't pricks because they pay for Viagra...they pay for Viagra because they are pricks. Maybe they all need help keeping it up.

You ROCk Mare...keep fighting the good fight and I pray there will be a little babe waiting for you at the end.

At 4:51 PM, Blogger sweetisu said...

Good going Mare!!! I sincerely wish you the best of luck getting changes made.
Way to go!

At 7:55 PM, Blogger amyesq said...

Yes, the ART vortex is bad enough without, I imagine, having to deal with the NHS. I bet they actually end up paying for very few IVFs every year b/c most of the infertile population has either a)already turned 38, b)turned 38 during the zillion-year waiting period or c) is in jail for for shooting (oh wait, no guns...) for POISONING their RE, their MP and their local NHS representative. Good luck wading through the quagmire.

At 9:08 PM, Blogger Wavery said...

Good for you!
The irony of this kind of system is not lost on me. It's not suitable to meet people's needs and yes, you pay taxes through the nose, it is not free.

At 9:50 PM, Blogger Orodemniades said...

And don't forget that once you get on the list for treatment, once you've been waiting for a couple of years, that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to the top of the list at your local clinic.

For example. Here in Aberdeen, 10 couples a year get treated. Due to 'budget constraints', they get one cycle a year.

Yes, you read that right, one IVF cycle.

We're number 4 on the list for 2005, although chances are that's not going to happen any more.

Fucking nhs.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Ana said...

I am dreading the day when I'll have to start discussing fertility treatments with teh Portuguese NHS. Maybe I'll move to Scotland once you've changed things there.

At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done! It's great that there's a politician out there willing to do something, and that you had the guts to get on her case.
My wish is that some day people will stop treating IVF as a luxury, and recognize it for the medical problem that it is (Can't wait till some doctor, somewhere, says: "A kidney transplant, Mrs. Jones? Well, that's just a luxury. Sure it's a medical condition, but can't you do with what you have? What? Kidney failure? Oh, but why SHOULD you expect to live more? Haven't you had enough?")

At 3:17 PM, Blogger stephanie said...

I wish I knew a way to design the perfect system, where everybody's needs were accomodated and there was enough money for everything. Until we do, somebody's always gonna get the losing end of the stick. It just sucks when it's you :-(

At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am 28 my DH has 2 children to a previous marriage they live with us as they do not get on with their mum.

I do not qualify to have my own kids with ivf treatment as my DH has his own!

At 5:53 AM, Blogger sexy said...



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