Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has announced that patients are now being referred through Regional Fertility Hubs for publicly-funded AHR (assisted human reproduction) treatment.

Eligible patients will be entitled to one full cycle of IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) or ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection) treatment, provided in a Health Service Executive (HSE)-approved private clinic of their choice. For certain cohorts of patients, up to three episodes of IUI (intrauterine insemination) can be made available.

The commencement fulfils the Programme for Government commitment to provide a publicly-funded model of care for fertility treatment.

It is underpinned by significant investment of €31 million in Budget 2022 and over €69 million in Budget 2023 in funding for women’s health services, including in relation to the network of six Regional Fertility Hubs.

Patients referred by their GP to these Hubs, whose fertility issues cannot be managed at a low level of intervention, are now being referred for AHR treatment in private clinics.

Minister Donnelly said, “this marks a very important step on our journey to fully publicly-funded AHR treatment and represents a major development in the provision of women’s health services in this state. I appreciate the challenges faced by people who wish to start a family but are unable to do so without clinical assistance. Cost should not be a barrier to accessing clinical intervention, so I’m very pleased that from today, publicly-funded AHR treatment will give thousands of people an opportunity fulfil their hopes of becoming parents.”

Publicly-funded, privately-provided AHR treatment is an interim measure along the path to the ultimate objective of Government, which is a complete publicly-provided fertility service. In this regard, the first public National AHR Centre is scheduled to open next year.

The provision of services is being commenced on a structured and phased basis and does not currently include treatments involving the use of donated gametes (sperm and eggs) for heterosexual or same-sex couples or single female patients.

This treatment will be made available as soon as possible once regulatory and clinical issues are addressed in the forthcoming Assisted Human Reproduction Bill.

Minister Donnelly said, “we have come a long way in a very short space of time in respect of publicly-funded fertility services in Ireland, and I’m committed to building on this progress to provide an equitable fully-funded service that supports the healthcare needs of people who face difficulties in creating a family. Work is ongoing on the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill which will improve access to AHR treatments and embed safe and appropriate clinical practice. We are also working towards another significant milestone next year with the launch of the first public National AHR Centre.”