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IVF publicly funded through private clinics won't start until September 2023

The public system will be built up over the year to provide IVF services through six fertility hubs around the country.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

PUBLICLY FUNDED ACCESS to IVF will be phased in from September 2023, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said. 

It was announced in yesterday’s budget that publicly funded IVF services would be rolled out from next year.  

Speaking to reporting in Government Buildings today, Donnelly said €10 million is being provided for IVF services provision for the final four months of next year. Funding is set to increase in 2024 to take in the entire 12-month period. 

“Ireland is an outlier and we should be providing funding for publicly accessible IVF. It simply isn’t fair that there are couples that desperately want to have a child an because it is so expensive to do so, can’t even try or maybe they can try one round and that’s it,” he said. 

The minister said he is determined to move to a much more “fairer and equal” system, which will be phased in from next year. 

The Government will allocating money to build up the public system, such as resourcing the six fertility hubs around the country, which will become the point of delivery for the new publicly delivered IVF services. 

“But from my perspective that wouldn’t give us the result we need quickly enough, because with the best will in the world it is going to take several years to build up the full public system,” he added. 

The minister said he has set aside funding for people to access IVF through private clinics from September. 

“Exactly how that will work in terms of criteria, rounds, and so forth is now something we are going to work through now that we know how much money we have,” he said, stating work will begin with stakeholders, patients, patient groups and the private clinics. 

He said he would like to see public provision of IVF services in fertility hubs to begin next year also, but said it will probably be at a “low base” with the private clinics “bridging the gap”. 

Over time, the minister wants it to transition to a publicly delivered service. 

The minister said he could not give an exact date as to when he would like to see the criteria and eligibility details published, stating that it will depend very much on stakeholder engagement. 

Donnelly said he “fully recognises” that many people will be “waiting on tenterhooks” for the details, but he added that his department hope to have it agreed “as soon as possible”

In the UK, IVF is only offered on the NHS if certain criteria are met and there are different rules around the number of cycles available depending on a woman’s age. 

Contraception

Separately, the minister outlined that he is awaiting legal advice around the provision of free contraception to women aged 16 to 30.

The current age limit for free contraception is 17-25.

The current age of consent is 17, however the medical age of consent is 16, said the minister. 

Donnelly said it is his view that if the State is providing termination services free of charge to 16 year old women, which it is, then it must provide free contraception to 16 year olds.

“I find it very difficult how we could do otherwise,” he said, while adding that he is awaiting legal advice on the issue. 

In addition, the minister outlined that free GP visit cards will be provided to households where the median income is on or below €46,000. 

When asked why he had not consulted with GPs prior to the announcement, the minister said the doctors have pointed out they need more capacity, acknowledging that there are not enough GP in the country. 

“Sometimes you wait for the perfect and if you wait for everybody to be satisfied, that everything they need is in place before we do the right thing, sometimes the right thing takes far too long to happen,” said the minister. 

He said informal talks with IMO have been taking place for the last few weeks, adding that he is aware of their concerns and the need to invest in GP capacity.  

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