Today, we got an NHS fertility referral from our GP. Wahoo!
This is a big step in the right direction. It may help to have some background info about how the NHS referral system works for same sex couples. In the UK, the NHS only covers fertility treatment in situations where infertility is “proven”. In the case of straight couples, this means that they must have tried for two years unsuccessfully to conceive. Because no such test of fertility is possible for gay couples or single women, fertility treatment is not provided through the NHS. There is an inherent flaw in this logic, because it assumes that straight couples are more entitled to receive help to have a child because there is the biological possibility of natural conception, whereas for gay couples and single women natural conception is impossible anyway… So somehow this means fertility treatment is less vital for these people…?
Anyway, if you look around t’internet, there is a lot of controversy around this issue, both for and against. The UK is generally a very gay friendly country, and anecdotally there are cases where fertility treatment has been provided by the NHS to gay couples but this seems to be on a one-off basis or a postcode lottery. A couple of court cases have ruled to allow it, but these are usually cases with exceptional circumstances.
So the precedent exists: if lesbians want babies, they go private. The facilities are top-notch, and there is less risk of experiencing discrimination. Also egg sharing is available, which means IVF is almost free. And it’s much faster too, initial consultation to first round of treatment in 3 months. Under the NHS, waiting lists for straight couples can be up to 2 years long, and there are stricter regulations about age, weight, medical history, etc.
So why go NHS? Lou and I have discussed this at length, and for about the next 6 months we are not in a rush to conceive. We are also financially comfortable. We are young and healthy. We are in a position to go private at any point if we wish. But it’s sort of our thing to buck the trend. We are the gay couple with mostly straight friends. We are both feminine, and we both list our sexuality as way down the list of things that define us. But we are also both proud of who we are, and do not hide our lifestyle. Why should we segregate ourselves in the private clinics as everyone expects us to? Why shouldn’t we challenge the norm and make the NHS explain it’s reasons for refusing fertility treatment? How can they defend their discriminatory policy? I am not saying I want to fight this all the way. But if our situation could provide a precedent for other couples, or even for a couple NHS staff to deal first-hand with a gay couple who want to have a baby, then I think it is worth it. We are thick skinned, but also understanding and patient when we experience genuine ignorance. Therefore, we agreed to try the NHS route first, and if it doesn’t work out in our time frame, then we will go private. We feel prepared and frankly very curious to see how this plays out!
All of these plans hinged on the GP referring us to NHS fertility. If the GP had felt that it was a hopeless case, or if the GP was homophobic, she could simply choose to write a referral straight to the private clinic.
Still with me? Well, here comes today’s story.
Today at lunchtime we spoke with our GP. She had discussed our case with her mother (also a GP) and they decided that because nobody knew for sure if we could get treatment under the NHS, they would write the NHS referral, and see what happens! The blood tests showed everything was normal. So the NHS referral has to go through the booking system and will be ready next Thursday. We will be given a password and a phone number and book an appointment at the hospital of our choice. All the blood results will be sent through and at that point, we are in the hands of NHS fertility.
And that is how we got an NHS referral letter. Surprisingly easy, and so encouraging that our GP came to this decision on her own. I have fought harder to get £10 off my car insurance. But all we needed was a good relationship with our GP, who was willing to test the system for the benefit of her patient. We may be rejected at the next stage, and if so this letter will still work as a private referral. It will probably boil down to whether the local authority accepts or rejects the fee. And I suppose they would have to come up with a decent argument to support that, especially if it comes after the treatment has finished.
So far, so good. Next steps, are to wait for an appointment, and then see what the NHS waiting list looks like. And whether they will have us. I don’t think I mentioned timeline in detail. We hope to be ready to go from October onwards.