The resumption of fertility services in Northern Ireland has been welcomed.
Eligibility has also been extended by a year in recognition of disruption to the services caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Minister Robin Swann said this temporary measure will reduce the pressure for women who would otherwise breach the upper age limit before receiving treatment.
Minister Swann welcomes phased return of fertility services and confirmed:— Department of Health (@healthdpt) August 10, 2020
➡️Eligibility for anyone currently on the waiting list will be extended by a year
➡️Extended opening hours to help provide appointments to as many patients as safely as possiblehttps://t.co/P7RSl3mR5O pic.twitter.com/h3avpNexol
“Although fertility treatments are considered to be routine elective services and the focus is on re-starting urgent services first, I have made it clear that re-starting fertility services is a priority for me and as such, preparations have been ongoing to enable this to happen as soon as possible,” he said.
“As treatment will re-start on a phased basis, it will take some time before service levels can be restored to full pre-Covid-19 provision.
“To mitigate some of the delay, the RFC (Regional Fertility Centre) will be opening extended hours to help provide appointments to as many patients as safely as possible.
“In recognition of the distress caused to women who are currently waiting for treatment at the RFC, the eligibility for anyone currently on the waiting list will be extended by a year.
“This will reduce the pressure for women who would otherwise breach the upper age limit before receiving treatment.
“This temporary extension to the age limit will only apply to women currently on the waiting list.”
Health committee chairman Colm Gildernew welcomed the move.
“This will be welcome news for the many women and couples who have been devastated by the closure of services and had an anxious wait until services resumed,” the Sinn Féin MLA said.
“I also welcome the news that those already on the waiting list will have an extra year to start treatment without exceeding the age limit for services.
“However, it will be essential that services are extending to increase the number of appointments necessary to deal with the backlog of appointments.”
SDLP MLA Colin McGrath added: “It is very welcome news that this invaluable service will resume on a phased basis.
“This will provide huge relief to those waiting to commence treatment.
“It is also welcome that the service hours have been extended, to accommodate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.”