Delayed consent forms prevented unvaccinated patients accessing IVF

Unvaccinated patients were told that treatment could resume this week after IVF was paused in January.

Scottish Government consent form delay blocked unvaccinated women from fertility treatment iStock

Unvaccinated women have been denied access to IVF on the NHS after consent forms allowing treatment to resume were delayed. 

On Saturday, the Scottish Government announced that restrictions on fertility treatment would be relaxed for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated patients.

The pause on treatment was introduced in January following the emergence of Omicron. 

Patients were told they could resume treatment if they signed a consent form acknowledging the risks of undergoing treatment without being fully vaccinated against coronavirus. 

However it has emerged the consent forms have been delayed, meaning unvaccinated women seeking IVF have still been unable to access treatment despite the rule change.

One woman seeking fertility treatment, who asked to remain anonymous, told STV News she was turned away from Glasgow Royal Infirmary due to the administration delay.

“Not knowing whether I’d be able to start IVF or would have to wait until my next cycle was torture,” she told STV News.

“So much goes into preparing for IVF – conversations with family, friends, workplaces – that for it all to be up in the air is very stressful.”

On Thursday, the First Minister said she was “not aware” of the delay after Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Jackie Baillie raised the issue at Holyrood. 

Baillie told MSPs: “On Christmas Eve, IVF treatment was suspended across Scotland for women who were not up to date with their Covid vaccinations. 

“Scotland was the only part of the UK to do so and it is the only service on the NHS on which treatment was conditional on vaccination. 

“The Chief Medical Officer announced that the service would resume last week which is welcome, however women arriving for IVF treatment were sent away because a consent form from the Scottish Government’s central legal office had not yet been processed. 

“This is causing a continued delay to treatment which is reducing chances of women falling pregnant. 

“Will the First Minister intervene to ensure that IVF treatment is not delayed any further?”

The First Minister responded: “Firstly it’s really important to stress that the recommendation to temporarily defer fertility treatment for women not fully vaccinated was taken as a clinical decision in response to emerging evidence and clinical concerns raised by lead clinicians in the four NHS assisted conception units about the risk to mothers and babies of not being vaccinated. 

“These concerns were based on patient safety and the decision affected a small number of patients although I understand the distress and trauma that will have been caused, but for the vast majority of women treatment was able to proceed without delay.

“The Chief Medical Officer is now recommending that fertility treatment for unvaccinated patients no longer needs to be deferred. That is a decision that will be given immediate effect so that treatment of patients can recommence. 

“The administrative issue that Jackie Baillie has raised I am not aware of but I will look into that and make sure that if that is an issue that subsists that it is rectified as soon as possible.”

On Thursday evening, a spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde apologised for the delay in consent forms reaching patients and said they had now been made available.

The patient who STV News spoke with later confirmed that she had been contacted by Glasgow Royal Infirmary regarding treatment and is due to start IVF on Friday.

“I’m happy I am now able to start IVF tomorrow however I shouldn’t have had to contact MPs, the media and different organisations for that to happen,” she told STV News.

The spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “We apologise to this patient for her wait for treatment following the change in policy.

“We are pleased that in line with the guidance announced in Friday’s CMO’s letter in relation to unvaccinated women signing a consent form, that this form has now been made available for use.

“We are proactively contacting affected patients to ensure there are no unnecessary delays to accessing treatment.”

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