A NEW state of the art In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) clinic at Wrightington Hospital will potentially help thousands of couples in Wigan and beyond to be able to have children say health chiefs.
The new £1.2m centre - which is currently in the advanced stages of planning - will be a flagship scheme for Wrightington Wigan Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) that will eventually see the current service at Leigh Infirmary relocated to the new unit.
However, hospital bosses have said the proposal will not affect the existing IVF services currently provided at Leigh in the meantime.
Health chiefs say the new IVF clinic will feature six consulting rooms, an andrology clinic and laboratory, and support facilities.
All clinical rooms will be fully equipped with state-of- the-art assisted conception equipment.
They also say the purpose built fertility centre supports WWL’s service modernisation programme for Wrightington Hospital, and is due to be open by the start of 2015.
Philip Harris, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at WWL, said: “The relocation of the already extremely successful Assisted Conception Unit into a high quality, purpose built facility on the Wrightington Hospital site represents an exciting opportunity.
“It will not only future proof the service, making it more widely available to a larger population of patients, in particular improving access for the people of West Lancashire and further afield looking for a high quality NHS fertility treatment.”
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is just one of several techniques available to help couples with fertility problems to have a baby. According to guidelines, couples may be eligible for IVF treatment on the NHS if the woman is between 23 and 39 years of age at the time of treatment.
However, the decision on eligibility is made locally by primary care trusts, and priority is given to couples who do not already have children.
The provision of IVF by health trusts has come under fire in recent years with campaigners saying not enough funding is given to treatment for couples trying to conceive.
In 2011, the then primary care trust (Ashton Leigh Wigan) announced that in Wigan IVF funding would not be cut despite many neighbouring trusts cutting funding significantly.
Last year, NHS guidelines were changes to say that couples struggling to have a baby should get fertility treatment more quickly and older women should gain access to IVF.
IVF should be offered after two years of failed attempts, not the current three, says the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
And the upper age limit should rise from 39 to 42 in England and Wales.
Some fertility experts fear the guidelines may not lead to changes because they are not binding.