While the top five clinics carry out two key procedures in the IVF cycle – egg collection and the transfer of fertilised eggs to the womb – at least five days a week, more than half of NHS clinics did so less than four days a week and some only did it one or two days a week, according to BBC Five Live Report survey.
Until 2005, Laurence Shaw, now deputy medical director at the private Bridge Centre in London was an NHS IVF specialist, where he only had time to collect eggs one morning a week.
He told the BBC: “The vast bulk of units up and down the country are very similar to the one I used to work in. They may be only free to do an egg collection or an embryo transfer on one or two days of the week.”
Mr Shaw said the flexibility to collect eggs and transfer embryos back to the womb at the optimum moment could make a “significant” difference to a patient’s chances of conceiving.
According to figures from the regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, IVF clinic success rates range from around 50% for the best performing clinics to 10% for the worst.
Clare Brown, from the patient group Infertility Network UK, said the impact week-long egg collection and embryo transfer procedures have was an area the NHS needed to look at. “I would urge more research into what can improve success rates,” she said. “For the sake of patients and to give them the best possible chance, we need to look into this very carefully.”