Draft guidelines published today by independent advisors NICE (The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) recommend that women aged between 40 and 42 be eligible for IVF treatment on the NHS.
The guidelines also propose that same sex couples receive the same treatment as heterosexual couples.
The current age limit on free IVF is 39, but Dr Gill Long, Deputy Chief Executive of NICE, said that there have been many advances in treatments and understanding of techniques since the original fertility recommendations published in 2004.
“Infertility is a medical condition that can cause significant distress for those trying to have a baby… potentially leading to depression and the break-down of relationships.The aim of these updated recommendations is to ensure that everyone who has a problem with fertility has access to the best levels of help,” Dr Gill said.
The recommendation is that women aged 40 to 42 who have not had previous treatment consider one full cycle of IVF. NICE also proposes that women up to age 39 be given quicker access to IVF.
One cycle of IVF can cost up to £8,000 privately.
Susan Seenan, deputy director of patient group Infertility Network UK, welcomed the proposed changes but added: “(They) should not take away from the clear message that age is still a major factor in fertility and that the longer one waits, the greater the likelihood of problems.”