Would-be parents to receive £5 million for fertility drugs

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NHS chiefs are to spend more than £5 million to help boost Scotland’s flagging birth rate.

The money will be used to buy in a range of fertility treatments to help childless couples fall pregnant.

NHS Scotland has issued a tender to buy in four fertility products for Scotland’s fertility centres based in Edinburgh, Lothian, Aberdeen and Dundee.

The four drugs to be purchased will help regulate a woman’s reproductive cycle by stimulating the production of eggs, support a healthy pregnancy and suppress the woman’s normal egg production to allow the fertility treatment to work.

The order will see a £4.2 million investment in fertility treatment over the next three years, rising to £5.6 million if the contract is extended to four years.

News of the investment comes just days after an economics expert warned that Scotland needs more babies to help support the country’s ageing population.

The Scottish Executive has been advised to introduce more family friendly policies in a bid to increase the nation’s population and consequently the number of people paying taxes.

Scots have a lower fertility rate than the rest of the UK and women in Scotland are more likely to ‘stop at two’ than those in Northern Ireland, England and Wales.

Scotland’s aging population poses a threat to the future of the country’s economy as the number of pensioners is set to grow.

An alternative measure to increase the numbers of workers would be to raise the volume of immigrants to Scotland.

A new report by, Dr Andrew Goudie states that a dramatic increase of migrants from countries such as Poland has ‘compensated’ for Scotland’s low fertility rate but is not to be viewed as a long-term solution as migrants are not necessarily going to stay in Scotland.

The document, titled Demographic Change shows Scotland’s fertility rate to be the lowest in the UK and is less than in Ireland, Belgium, France and the Scandinavian countries.

The Scottish rate is 1.77 children per mother whereas England stands at 1.96, Wales 1.93 and 2.04 in Northern Ireland.

The report suggests that a revamp of Scottish childcare policy and UK Government maternity leave could act to encourage people to have more children.

The report states: “Despite recent rise, fertility in Scotland still stands below the level required for population replacement.  Increasing life expectancy will inevitably lead to an ageing population. 

“However, this is exacerbated when a low fertility rate reduces the numbers of people in the younger age groups, and over time reduces the number of people of working age.”

Kirsty MacLachlan, headof  the demographics department at the General Register of Scotland said: “It’s quite complicated to pinpoint a reason for changes in fertility.

“Factors that encourage fertility are child friendly policies such as maternity leave and fiscal incentives.”

She added: “Migrants have a positive effect on birth rates.  This tends to be the case because many migrants are young and of an age where they may wish to have a child.”

While there is no uniform system for recording the benefit of these drugs across the four fertility centres that are due to receive the order, there are indicators of its success.

Tayside NHS has stated that over the past three years (2007-2009) there has been an average of 666 treatments at the Dundee fertility centre this figure does not show how many couples have received treatments. 

The Dundee centre also recorded and average of 219 babies born over the same time period with the number of conceptions in 2010 currently sitting at 176. 

These figures would suggest that in the Tayside region at least there is a one in three success rate for fertility treatments.

Grampian NHS has funded the treatment of 120 couples at the Aberdeen fertility centre for 2010 and 2009. 

This figure will remain constant for 2011 to 2013 with the renewed order of these four drugs.

NHS Lothian were unable to provide information about the Edinburgh and Lothian fertility centres without an FOI request.

In addition to women being encouraged to have more children, there may soon be the call for more men to donate their sperm.

Despite the high demand at Scotland’s IVF clinics there is a shortage of sperm due to low numbers of donors and legislation that prevents the sperm being kept for a prolonged period of time.

Last month only 26 men were signed-up up to the Scottish Sperm Donors register.

Spire Shawfair Park Hospital, is one of the hospitals in desperate need of donors where only ten men have volunteered since the £25 million Danderhall site opened in March.

Jaime Oswald, embryologist at Shawfair, said: “Expenses are a huge thing and 90 per cent of the calls we get are people that are looking for expenses.”

However, Ms Oswald is cautious about introducing a fee for donors.

She said: “I think it would make it a lot more attractive and I think the number of donors we could get would be significantly higher.

“But at the same time, what would worry me is if they did start paying quite a lot you’d get young people in who are not realising the commitment and that 18 years down the track you could get someone knocking on the door.”

A Scottish Executive spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has a range of policies designed to support families and children in Scotland, and make this country an attractive place to bring up children.”

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