Lesbian couple win battle with NHS after being told to ‘pay more than a straight couple’ to have a baby

A lesbian couple who were told to shell out £6,000 more than a straight couple before they could have a baby on the NHS have won a battle for access to treatment.

Barnsley couple Laura Hineson and Rachel Morgan had been trying to have a baby for several years via artificial insemination.

After paying for several rounds of private treatment and failing to concieve, the couple attempted to claim the same help on the NHS that any heterosexual couple would have been entitled to.

However, they were instead told to shell out thousands of pounds of their own money on further private treatment – under a policy which only applied to gay couples.

This week the couple, who had perused legal action against NHS Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group on the grounds of unlawful discrimination, were successful in securing access to IVF treatment.

Laura and Rachel said: “For us, this is about fighting for LGBT equality. We should have equal access to IVF treatment and a family, irrespective of the gender of the person we fall in love with.”

The couple, who struggled with unexplained infertility,  had been told that they would be required to undergo a total of six rounds of private intrauterine insemination (IUI) – at a cost of approximately £6,000 – before being able to access funded IVF treatment.

Under NHS Barnsley CCG’s policy, a heterosexual couple with similarly unexplained infertility does not need to undergo clinical IUI before being granted access to IVF treatment.

The policy stated that heterosexual couples would be offered IVF treatment if they had been unsuccessful after trying to conceive for two years, among other criteria.

For same sex couples, any attempts at artificial insemination at home were ignored and the policy required intrauterine insemination (IUI) to be attempted before access to IVF could be granted.

The couple’s legal team argued that this showed a clear inequality in treatment between the two groups which would impact “both on the time taken to conceive and on their finances”.

In their legal case the couple, represented by law firm Leigh Day, claimed that the policy amounted to unlawful direct discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 on the grounds of their sexuality.

The couple’s lawyers had threatened to seek a judicial review if the CCG did not agree to change its policy.

In response, Barnsley CCG conducted a review of the couple’s case – and conceded that it had relied too heavily upon the policy rather than looking at the specific circumstances of Rachel and Laura’s case.

Rosa Curling, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, said: “It was clear to us that Laura and Rachel had faced direct discrimination due to their sexuality.

“We are pleased that the CCG finally recognised this and agreed to review their policy so that other same-sex couples will not face an unfair disadvantage over heterosexual couples in the same situation.”

The couple had attempted to conceive using artificial insemination at home between November 2014 and January 2016. When this proved unsuccessful they were referred to Sheffield Fertility Centre in May 2016.

An NHS Nurse

(Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

They underwent three self-funded cycles of IUI treatments at the fertility centre.

This was unsuccessful so they made an Individual Funding Request (IFR), via their consultant, to the CCG to fund the IVF treatment.

This was rejected by the CCG which stated that the couple were required to undergo a further three cycles of self-funded insemination before being eligible for funding for IVF treatment.