About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland provides 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

  • During the quarter ending 31 December 2020, 205 referrals were received by the four IVF Centres across Scotland. This compares to 213 referrals in the previous quarter and 309 referrals in the quarter ending 31 December 2019, a reduction of 33.7% from a year ago. Referrals to the Glasgow IVF Centre are higher in the quarter ending 30 December 2020 than in the quarter ending 31 December 2019. All other IVF Centres have less referrals than a year ago with Dundee having the largest reduction in referrals (55.7%).
  • During the quarter ending 31 December 2020, 380 eligible patients were screened, with 100% screened within 365 days. This compares to 202 eligible patients screened during the previous quarter (99.0% screened within 365 days) and 440 eligible patients screened (100% within 365 days) in quarter ending 31 December 2019, a reduction of 13.6% from a year ago.
  • At 31 December 2020, 670 eligible patients were waiting to be screened compared to 785 patients waiting at 30 September 2020. The number of eligible patients waiting to be screened this quarter was similar to a year ago at 31 December 2019 (673 patients). There were less patients waiting at the Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh IVF Centres, as consequence of fewer referrals during the period and a resumption of screening in later months. However, there was an increase in the number of patients waiting at the Glasgow Centre due to an increase in those added to the waiting list.
  • The distribution of patients in respect of how long those still waiting to be screened had waited has changed since last quarter and is more similar to that seen prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. At 31 December 2020, the proportion of patients waiting 13 weeks or less was 39.0%, an increase from 30.8% at 30 September 2020. The proportion waiting more than 26 weeks was 22.9% at 31 December 2020, a decrease from 46.9% at the end of September. This compares to 56.3% waiting 13 weeks or less and 16% waiting more than 26 weeks at 31 December 2019.
  • The 90% standard continues to be met since it was first measured in March 2015.
Image caption Number of Patients Referred, Seen and Waiting January 2019-December 2020
This line chart shows: The number of Referrals (January 19 - December 20), The number of eligible patients screened (January 19 - December 20), The number of eligible patients waiting for an IVF screening appointment (January 19 – December 20) Waiting (January 19 - December 20)


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).

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 and subsequently the Fertility Services: Winter 2020/2021 preparation plan.

Further information

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

The next release of this publication will be 25 May 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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