The government’s decision to remove additional barriers some LGBTQ couples face in accessing NHS-funded fertility treatments has been welcomed by charities and equality organisations.

Under current rules, heterosexual couples can access NHS-funded fertility treatment once they demonstrate they have been trying to conceive naturally for a period of time.

However, single women and same-sex female couples are required to pay for private artificial insemination, which can cost thousands of pounds, to prove their fertility status before they are eligible for fertility treatments funded by the NHS.

The rule change, part of the Women’s Health Strategy released on Wednesday, will mean same-sex couples and single women will no longer need to privately fund artificial insemination cycles before being eligible for NHS fertility treatments.

A 2021 survey by BPAS found that 76% of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) require same-sex female couples to self-fund a minimum of three cycles of artificial insemination, which can cost up to $1. £600 per cycle.

NHS treatment for female same-sex couples will now start with six cycles of artificial insemination before moving on to IVF. There will also be a push to end the ‘postcode lottery’ in access to IVF treatment for gay and straight couples: currently some areas of the NHS offer one cycle and others three, and some base eligibility for treatment on criteria such as whether a person has a child from a previous relationship.

Marta Jansa Perez, director of embryology at BPAS Fertility, said she was “absolutely delighted” with the government’s decision to remove additional barriers faced by same-sex couples.

“Fertility services are crucial in supporting the development of different family structures. However, our research found that same-sex female couples and single women are disproportionately affected by policies that require them to self-fund costly and less effective artificial insemination, in some cases for at least two years, before to qualify for financial assistance. IVF. These restrictions amount to a tax on LGBT+ families, and the impact can be truly devastating.

She added: “We will review the policies in detail when they are released, and we will continue to campaign for fair and equal access to all infertile patients, including single women.”

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The announcement was also well received by Stonewall. The charity’s chief executive, Nancy Kelley, said: ‘We are delighted that the UK Government has heeded our call for fair and equal access to IVF treatment.

“For years lesbians, bi women and trans people have been forced to pay up to £25,000 in private healthcare before they can access IVF on the NHS, or give up their dream of becoming parents.

“It’s a giant step towards a world where LGBTQ+ people have the same opportunity as everyone else to build their own loving and thriving families.”

On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Social Care released its first-ever women’s health strategy, to close the gender health gap. The strategy also aims to improve specialist endometriosis services and to increase and expand breast cancer screening services.