Information

IVF treatment: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.


Information requested

In relation to Scottish Government and chief medical officer decision to defer IVF treatment in Scotland- please publish all the statistics used to make this decision- they are not readily available on the website- despite indications that they are within a report. This report does not provide the specifics necessary to understand this decision to defer IVF treatment.

IVF treatment is very subjective to individuals health and I don’t believe the decision to defer treatment has been balanced with an individual risk assessment based on each persons individual risk which is how NHS treatment is supposed to be made. Given the severity of the deferral effect on the couples involved this is not something that can be justified with such a blanket decision.

There was not a higher risk to pregnant women on the scale there was to the elderly population or those with underlying immune-compromising conditions. If the Chief Medical Officer had looked at the pregnant cases who ended up on ventilators or ICU I’m sure that in 99% of cases there were other underlying health conditions-and pregnancy was simply a coincidence and not the main cause of exacerbated covid symptoms.

Please provide full disclosure of how these decisions were and are being made with full statistics for each individual month since October 2021 as to how many pregnant women were in Intensive care or on ventilators. Not looking at individuals to be named or personal details- but a full and transparent disclosure if those individuals did have other underlying conditions which contributed to their vulnerability to covid.

Please provide statistics for how many of these cases resulted in deaths of either pregnant person or baby.

Please also explain why no regular updates are provided on this decision to the families who are left waiting in limbo until the Scottish Government can be bothered to publish information- 7 weeks currently with no updates. Hardly an appropriate response for the mental health of the families involved for a Scottish Government who cares about the mental health of the population. Seems to be coincidental that babies who would be born November/ December or ‘flu season’ and possibly contribute to pressure on already understaffed midwifery and NHS services are now being limited for IVF patients at least.

Response

As set out the Chief Medical Officer’s letter of 7 January 2022, the recommendation to temporarily defer fertility treatment for unvaccinated patients was made following clinical concerns raised by the lead Clinicians in the NHS Assisted Conception Units, consideration of the evidence of increased levels of morbidity and risk of severe illness amongst unvaccinated pregnant women, and taking account of ongoing uncertainty around the impact of the Omicron variant on pregnant women. A copy of the Chief Medical Officer’s letter which sets out full details of the recommendation together with the evidence and statistics used to make the recommendation is attached. The recommendation was made based on the evidence available at the time. It was then kept under continual review. Three of the links within the letter are now out of date and updated links to the Public Health Scotland data can be found here, the letter of 16 December 2021 link to the Royal College of Obstetrician and Gynaecologists guidance on COVID-19 infection in pregnancy for health professionals can be found here and the decision aid can now be found here.

In terms of updates on the recommendation, the Chief Medical Officer’s letter of 7 January also advised that the recommendation would be kept under review considering emerging evidence of risk as well as the prevailing levels of COVID-19 during January and February 2022. The continuing review was to inform whether the temporary recommendation to defer fertility treatment should remain in place. You may find it helpful to know that the review is now complete and on 4 March 2022 the Chief Medical Officer published a letter recommending that fertility treatment for unvaccinated patients no longer be deferred. A copy of the letter can be found here.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not collect some of the information you have requested. This is the information regarding month by month statistics from October 2021 as to how many pregnant women were in intensive care or on ventilators and statistics for how many of these cases resulted in deaths of either the pregnant person or baby.

However, Public Health Scotland may be able to provide this information that you request. They can be contacted at Freedom of Information (FOI) and Environmental Information Regulation (EIR) requests - Contact us - Public Health Scotland or by email PHS.FOI@phs.scot or you can write to them at

Corporate FOI team
Public Health Scotland
Gyle Square
South Gyle Crescent
Edinburgh
EH12 9EB

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The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

FOI 202200283022 - Information released

Contact

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Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

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