More than 400 referrals made for State-funded fertility treatment since September

Publicly funded treatments in private clinics began last year, with a public centre expected to open in 2025

There have been more than 400 referrals for State-funded fertility treatment to date, as Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said eligibility for the scheme will be expanded.

Since last September, the Government has provided funding for fertility treatments, totalling €30 million for the year.

Speaking at the unveiling of the Women’s Health Action Plan 2024-2025 on Thursday, Mr Donnelly said more than 400 couples had been referred for State-funded fertility treatment in private clinics.

The first public assisted human-reproduction treatment centre is also expected to open at the beginning of 2025, he said, adding the provision of treatment in private centres was necessary until public service could be built up.

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“In terms of eligibility, we will be expanding it. I ring-fenced a very large pot of money, it’s €30 million for the first year. What is very difficult to estimate is how many referrals there are going to be. Really the advice we got in from the expert groups is to take a conservative approach to make sure every referral can actually be met,” Mr Donnelly said.

Under current eligibility criteria, people with a body mass index (BMI) outside a range of 18.5-30, those who have already had more than one round of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), and women over the age of 40 will not be eligible for the scheme. Men must be under 60.

“We’re going to see how it goes this year, see how many people are referred, make sure they’re the correct referrals. Then the expert group will do a review to see do we want to move on BMI, do we want to move on age, do we want to move on the second round being funded, do we want to move on some of the other criteria.”

Mr Donnelly said the eligibility in other European countries was examined and that it is “fair to say we’re at the lower end in terms of eligibility”.

“But the clinical advice we got was we’re just at the start of this. We can’t just jump to where they [other countries] are. The eligibility is conservative, I think we will expand it. What we’ll do is we’ll let this year run through and I foresee next year the expert group doing an expert review.”

Under the new action plan for women’s health, there will be initiatives targeted at women at midlife or older to improve bone and cardiovascular health and the development of a cervical cancer elimination action plan.

Rachel Kenna, chief nursing officer and co-chair of the women’s health taskforce, said by listening to women, the taskforce “identified priority areas for action which have been supported by extensive investment”.

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