COUPLES who smoke are to be denied IVF treatment by Scottish health chiefs.
NHS Fife will be the first health board in Scotland to refuse fertility treatment on the grounds of smoking when the ban comes in this October.
The move will apply when both partners smoke and the woman is overweight.
NHS Fife claims the ban will help reduce costs and the overall waiting times for IVF treatment.
But campaigners claim the ban on both parents is “scandalous”, “discriminatory” and that the couples have already paid for the right to treatment through high tobacco taxes.
The board is also cutting back the number of IVF treatments for couples who do qualify from three to two. Each treatment, or “cycle”, costs the NHS on average £3000.
Charity Infertility Network said that while they are aware of females being required to be non-smokers this is the first time both partners have been required to change their lifetsyles.
Gwenda Burns, Scottish branch co-ordinator for the IN, said: “There are health reasons involving smokers but before, women have been offered help to stop smoking and they could go through the treatment – both partners being non-smokers is not in the guidelines.”
Ms Burns also said that NHS Fife’s budget cuts were likely to blame but they should have waited for an upcoming review of the IVF system before shocking prospective couples with the new rules.
She added: “This is bad news for patients. The decision to cut patient provision before the infertility review is finished is completely incomprehensible.
“To make this decision without any consultation or warning whilst we are so close to the end of this important review is beyond belief.
“It is scandalous that health boards in Scotland continue to reduce provision and make changes to criteria knowing that new recommendations will soon be in place.
Simon Clark director of pro-smoking organisation Forest, which campaigns for the rights of smokers, said: “It is discriminatory and smokers have already paid into the welfare service through tobacco taxes, so in one way they have paid for the right to treatment.”
Dr Brian Montgomery, NHS Fife Medical Director, said: “NHS Fife has committed an extra £100,000 to fund infertility treatment over the next financial year.
“Both partners must be non-smokers and the female body mass index should be less than 30kg/m2.
‘This will see 28 more cycles carried out than the previous financial year, helping to reduce waiting times for treatment.
“Treatment criteria have been revised to improve the success of the treatment and the outcomes for mothers and babies – patients will receive up to two more treatment cycles.
“These changes will come into effect for all new patients from October 2012, or those on the waiting list who are likely to be offered a cycle after April 1, 2013.
“Couples currently waiting for a third cycle will still receive this.”