It is understandable that many UK patients may have concerns about how Brexit might influence their ability to access egg donation clinics. After three-plus years of uncertainty the Brexit legislation has finally achieved legal status in the UK and the remainder of 2020 will be spent negotiating a range of practical trade agreements that potentially could affect anyone wanting to have IVF with donor eggs.
To a certain extent, this is unchartered territory. Whilst the UK Government says a ‘No Deal’ is unlikely, it does remain a possibility that the UK and E.U. might not agree potentially complex trade negotiations and the UK Government decides to withdraw from the Bloc without a structured deal in place. If this does happen will it affect patients searching for egg donation programmes?
The short answer is that if a no-deal happened it could potentially be more harmful to patients remaining in the UK for treatment than for those travelling to Europe for IVF with donor eggs. The main concern for UK fertility clinics is the impact a no-deal would have on the supply of goods from the E.U. In such a scenario if E.U. member states imposed stricter checks at the UK border this could lead to delays in getting products into the UK. For fertility clinics that rely on goods such as liquid nitrogen, media consumables and medications to help run their facilities any delays might have a negative impact on their ability to deliver services. Equally, the UK relies heavily on foreign sperm – recent figures show 3,000 sperm samples from Denmark alone were imported to the UK in 2017. Once again, any long term delays caused by border controls could potentially impact on fertility services.
Brexit has been a long time coming and UK clinics have made necessary contingency plans around potential delays in the supply chain. Such delays, however, are an unknown quantity; they may not happen at all; they may be short-lived or they might have extremely negative effects on UK businesses that rely on trade with the E.U.
Who knows, but in a no-deal scenario, it is likely that the fertility patient who remains in the UK for egg donation treatment could potentially be affected rather than the patient who travels to Europe for egg donation IVF. So how will those travelling from the UK into Europe for fertility treatment be affected by Brexit?
Brexit with a deal
The short answer is, if the UK leaves the E.U. with a deal, travel should not be adversely affected. During the initial Brexit ‘transition period’ to December 2020 UK passport holders will have the same rights and guarantees as before – including the use of the European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) which cover pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care as well as emergency care. At present, there are 27 million registered EHIC cardholders in the UK.
Brexit with no deal
If the UK leaves with no deal, you cannot necessarily rely on the EHIC being valid and therefore appropriate levels of health insurance will need to be sought.
In the longer-term UK travellers into Europe may have to pay for short term visas similar to the U.S. ESTA Visa programme and possibly could be subjected to slightly longer border queues. Planned health treatments including egg donation programmes in Europe however, in both deal or no deal scenarios shouldn’t be directly affected unless any treatment is subject to additional emergency care which would be subject to additional personal or insurance payment.
Brexit is not a static issue. Trade negotiations will continue throughout the initial transitional period and possibly beyond; possibly beyond for some time!
We would always recommend that any patient who is considering travelling at any time obtains an appropriate level of health insurance to cover any eventuality.
IVF and BREXIT
As part of our planned work to monitor the effects of Brexit and the UK’s decision to leave the E.U. we recently launched our first piece of research to gauge the views of British patients to see how they thought the move might benefit or hinder their access to IVF egg donation programmes in Europe.
The first piece of research drew some interesting conclusions including the overall response to the question of whether Brexit was a good or bad thing for the UK fertility tourist. The response to this question reflected the general ambiguity around the whole issue – with 54% of respondents saying Brexit would be a bad thing for their fertility travel and 43% being ‘not sure’. A result which confirms the uncertainty about the whole issue and the impact it might, or might not, have.
An overwhelming proportion of people thought that IVF treatments might cost more in Europe compared to the UK after Brexit and many remained sceptical that in post Brexit there would be more bureaucracy, more paperwork which needed to be completed if patients travelled from the UK into the E.U. for treatment. Patients also expressed the fear that access to egg donors and sperm donors might be restricted. On a positive note respondents thought the fertility clinics in Europe might work harder to attract patients from the UK and provide an enhanced service which might include incentives to travel.
You may also be interested in reading: Egg Donation in the UK: prices, timelines, and laws
Andrew Coutts, who is a renowned fertility travel commentator with the International Fertility Company summed up the research undertaken by eggdonationfriends.com:
I think the research reflects the psyche of the whole of the U.K. at the moment – we simply do not know how things will develop over the next couple of years. I think however that if European fertility clinics continue to offer the highest standards of IVF treatments patients will always travel.
Our consultants will continually monitor the Brexit situation and will keep you informed of any changes which might affect UK patients travelling into Europe and their ability to access egg donation IVF programmes.