Same sex couple’s fertility funding anger

Lisburn couple Lynsey Kirkwood and Lisa Berry.
Lisburn couple Lynsey Kirkwood and Lisa Berry.

A Lisburn couple have claimed that their hopes of starting a family using IVF treatment have been dashed, after being told they ‘cannot receive funding for the treatment on the NHS because they are a same sex couple.’

Lynsey Kirkwood and Lisa Berry have been together for over three years and for the past 18 months have been attending a fertility clinic with the aim of starting a family.

Due to fertility issues with both women, the pair were told that they required IVF treatment which can cost upwards of £6,000.

Lynsey said that after being referred to an NHS consultant she claims that they were told that “despite meeting the criteria for IVF treatment, they were not eligible for funding as they are a same sex couple.”

She told the Ulster Star that they have been left ‘devastated’ and ‘betrayed’ by this policy and have begun the long and difficult task of raising the £6,000 themselves.

She said: “We had the meeting with the NHS consultant in Belfast and we were told is that we were not eligible for funding because we are a same sex couple.

“When we heard this news we were devastated, we had been planning this for a year.

“I blamed myself, I feel guilty, I feel that I am the reason that she couldn’t have children. Had Lisa walked in with a man, she would have been starting treatment now, and that hurts us both because we feel that it’s a direct attack on our relationship that so many others in the community have been accepting of.

“They are happy to treat us if we pay for it ourselves but they are not willing to fund it.”

Unfortunately due to the nature of the fertility problems, they have been told that Lisa only has around a year before she is no longer to have children, which is an added pressure of raising the £6,000 in around a year.

“Due to fertility problems we have been told that Lisa only has around 18 months before she is no longer able to have children so it feels like time is against us. We have to raise the money ourselves and have about a year and a half to do it.

“We aren’t in this for free treatment or expecting anything handed to us because of our relationship. We would have been quite happy to pay privately, just unfortunately now that a timescale has been thrown in to the mix it’s an impossible task for us despite both working.”

A spokesperson for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said: “We are unable to comment on individual cases, however all patients attending the Regional Fertility Centre requesting NHS treatment are assessed and managed in accordance with Department of Health commissioning criteria.

“Factors include; the patients age and weight and that there must be a medical cause for infertility.”

The Department of Health was contacted for clarification on the criteria, however no response had been received at the time of going to print. They have previously stated that “same-sex couples have the same eligibility to publicly funded specialist infertility treatment as other couples.”

Tracey McDowell from Here NI, an independent support group for gay and bisexual women, said: “As a direct result of our Same Sex Families project we have noticed a marked increase in the number of calls we are getting from distressed couples that have been refused NHS funded fertility treatment by the Regional Fertility Centre.

“The stories we hear all follow the same narrative - after approaching their GP, couples are referred to the Regional Fertility Centre hopeful that they will receive treatment only to be left devastated when this is not the case.

“We are happy to provide support and guidance were possible and we would welcome a review of the current Department of Health guidelines.”

The couple have created a crowd funding page with the aim of raising the funds for Lisa to receive IVF treatment, which you can visit by clicking here.