Lesbian couple win bias claim over IVF treatment
A lesbian couple who began legal action against their local NHS commissioning group on the grounds that its policy on access to infertility treatment was unlawful have succeeded in securing access to IVF.
Laura Hineson and Rachel Morgan were told that they would be required to undergo six rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI), at a cost of approximately £6,000, before being able to access funded IVF.
Under the policy of the clinical commissioning group (CCG) in Barnsley, Yorkshire, a heterosexual couple with similarly unexplained infertility do not need to undergo clinical IUI before being granted access to IVF.
The couple attempted to conceive using artificial insemination at home between November 2014 and January 2016. When this proved unsuccessful they were referred to Sheffield Fertility Centre in May of that year.
They underwent three self-funded cycles of IUI treatments. After this was unsuccessful they made an individual request to the CCG to fund the IVF.
The CCG rejected the request, saying that the couple were required to undergo a further three cycles of self-funded insemination before being eligible for funding for IVF.
In their claim the couple, represented by the London law firm Leigh Day, said that the policy amounted to unlawful direct discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 on the grounds of their sexuality.
The policy stated that heterosexual couples would be offered IVF if they had been unsuccessful after trying to conceive for two years, and providing that they met further eligibility criteria. The policy for same-sex couples ignored any attempts at artificial insemination at home and required IUI to be attempted before access to IVF could be granted.
The couple’s legal team argued that this showed a clear inequality in treatment between the two groups, which would impact both on the time taken for them to conceive and on their finances.
The Leigh Day solicitor Rosa Curling said: “It was clear to us that Laura and Rachel had faced direct discrimination due to their sexuality.
“We are pleased that the CCG finally recognised this and agreed to review their policy so that other same-sex couples will not face an unfair disadvantage over heterosexual couples in the same situation.”