About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland contains an update on how long eligible patients waited from referral to screening appointment for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment by the NHS in Scotland. The standard is for 90% of eligible patients to be screened at an IVF Centre within 365 days of receipt of referral from a secondary care/acute consultant.

Main points

As a result of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, the four Scottish IVF Centres collectively agreed not to start any new treatment after 17 March 2020. In May, permission to restart services was granted by the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA). IVF Centres began a stepped restart in line with the framework for restarting fertility services (external website). This has impacted waiting times in the months to September 2020.

  • During the quarter ending 30 September 2020, 212 referrals were received by the four IVF Centres across Scotland. This compares to 106 referrals in the previous quarter and 269 referrals in the quarter ending 30 September 2019.
  • During the quarter ending 30 September 2020, 202 eligible patients were screened at an IVF Centre in Scotland, with 99.0% screened within 365 days. This compares to 370 eligible patients screened during quarter ending 30 September 2019. Only 7 patients were screened at an IVF Centre during quarter ending 30 June 2020.
  • At 30 September 2020, 785 eligible patients were waiting to be screened compared to 609 patients at 30 September 2019 and 817 patients waiting to be screened at 30 June 2020.
  • Due to the initial pausing of services and reduction in referrals, the distribution of patients, in respect of how long those still waiting to be screened had waited, had changed quite considerably by the end of the previously reported quarter (at 30 June 2020). At this time the percentage of patients who had been waiting 91 days was 16.2%, compared to 45.5% at 30 September 2019. As a consequence of increased referrals this percentage had risen to 30.8% by 30 September 2020. In contrast, the proportion of patients who had been waiting 274 days and over had reduced from 10.0% at 30 June 2020 to 6.8% by 30 September 2020, however this remains higher than at 30 September 2019 (2.3%).
  • The 90% standard continues to be met since it was first measured in March 2015.


IVF is an effective method of assisted reproductive technology used to treat infertility. This includes intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) for male infertility.

Where this publication refers to IVF, it includes IVF and ICSI. One full cycle of IVF includes ovulation induction, egg retrieval, fertilisation, transfer of fresh embryos, followed by freezing of suitable embryos and subsequent replacement of these provided the couple still fulfil the access criteria.

Each of the 14 territorial NHS Boards in Scotland commissions cycles of IVF from one of the four specialist tertiary Centres providing NHS treatment (Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow).

The Scottish Government requires NHSScotland to measure the length of time people wait for treatment. The target is that 90% of eligible patients will begin IVF treatment within 12 months. This is measured by the percentage of patients who were screened at an IVF Centre within 12 months of referral from a secondary care/acute consultant. The Scottish Government set this target from 31 March 2015 and it is now a Local Delivery Plan (LDP) standard.

Image caption Number of Patients Referred, Seen and Waiting January 2019-September 2020
Trend chart showing the number of eligible patients:  Referrals (January 19 - September 20) Screened  (January 19 - September 20) Waiting (January 19 - September 20)

Further information

Find out more in the full report which includes background information, a glossary and metadata, and is available from the top of this publication page.

Open data for this publication is also available from the Scottish Health and Social Care Open Data portal (external website).

The next release of this publication will be 23 February 2021.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please contact phs.ivf@phs.scot.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

Requesting other formats and reporting issues

If you require publications or documents in other formats, please email phs.otherformats@phs.scot.

To report any issues with a publication, please email phs.generalpublications@phs.scot.

Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 07 October 2022
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