As more and more IVF babies are born in the UK — over 250,000 by now  — in vitro fertilisation cycles have also increasingly become more successful. A quarter of all IVF cycles in which a woman's own fresh eggs are used now result in a live birth, a statistic that rises to one-third in women under 35.  There's never been a better time to receive IVF treatment, then, but cuts within the NHS also mean that fewer people meet the access criteria for NHS-funded IVF, and and an increasing number of the approximately 50,000 IVF cycles taking place in the UK annually are privately funded .
A survey conducted by the charity Fertility Network UK reveals that patients undergoing fertility treatment paid an average of £11,378, while 10 per cent spent more than £30,000. What's more, nine in 10 patients reported feeling depressed over the course of their fertility treatment. 
As a privately-funding patient, you will have the flexibility of choosing the fertility clinic that best meets your personal needs, whatever they may be. You will be looking for a clinic that has a high success rate, is close to home, is able to commence treatment quickly, offers all the services you require, and is compassionate and caring. Simply investigating which clinics may be suitable for you brings you a little closer to the soft smile of a newborn baby, but we also know that the process is quite stressful to navigate — you may not have a clue how to choose a fertility clinic!
In deciding which clinics to cover, we have excluded those clinics that are too new to have had time to develop a trusted reputation as well as those that had less than perfect HFEA inspection ratings. A rating of 4/5, based on findings such as "five major areas of noncompliance or poor practice [...] concerning screening and testing of patients, medical gas cylinders, oxygen on the emergency trolley, CE marked devices in the laboratory and annual data returns",  might not necessarily be a deal breaker, and such clinics may still have good success rates. However, we think you deserve the very best care possible, so we are only covering clinics with perfect inspection rates.
Some quick notes before we get started:
- Each of these clinics recruit UK sperm and egg donors and offers a known donor programme.
- While we are publishing sample prices for some of the most common services offered at these clinics to enable you to compare like with like, also keep in mind that your costs per cycle depend on the treatments you will be receiving. In some cases, there are variations in what these services entail. Always ask the clinic you are interested in for a price estimation.
- Smaller clinics tend to be less busy and more intimate, and are a good choice for many people seeking IVF. Do keep in mind that the success rates of clinics performing larger numbers of cycles are more reliable, since they are not as influenced by individual patients and therefore better represent the competence of the clinic. While you need to know how successful a clinic is, overall success rates also do not necessarily reflect your individual chances of getting pregnant.
Nuffield Health Woking Hospital: The Victoria Wing
Based within a small private hospital in Woking (Surrey), the Nuffield Health Woking Hospital’s Victoria Wing is a large fertility clinic that’s been licenced by the HFEA since 1994. Along with performing IVF and ICSI — as all clinics we are covering do — it also offers surgical sperm collection.
In addition, you'll be interested to note that:
- The Victoria Wing offers assisted hatching, which greatly improves your chances of getting pregnant if you’re older than 38, have already had several failed IVF cycles, or have poorer quality embryos.
- You have the possibility of choosing an extended culture and blastocyst transfer, allowing for the selection of the most promising embryos.
- The clinic has an egg sharing programme for those who are interested in reducing the cost of their treatment while helping another patient start her family.
- EmbryoGlue, a culture medium that mimics the natural conditions of the womb, is an option at this clinic.
Having been investigating UK fertility clinics for a while now, we have to say that the Victoria Wing immediately stood out — not only do they have excellent success rates (a pregnancy rate of 47% for all patients under 40 in 2014!) and offer up to eight free counselling sessions, the clinic also has a warm and welcoming feel. “We take care of the small things, from on-site free parking to a friendly smile when you arrive,” the Victoria Wing’s website notes, giving the impression of a truly patient-centered clinic that’s not only committed to getting you pregnant and helping you have a baby, but also to making sure you feel good during the process.
To separate their success rates by age group, the Victoria Wing has the following rates for live births per embryo transfer in fresh IVF/ICSI cycles:
- Age 35-37: 38 per cent
- Age 38-39: 28 per cent
- Age 40-42: 19 per cent
The Victoria Wing notes that they are able to treat patients up to 45 years old with their own eggs, while older women are able to receive treatment using an egg donor. There may be a short waiting list of a few weeks, especially if you would like to be treated by a specific doctor, and you may visit the clinic at no cost before committing to becoming a patient.
Hearing from former Nuffield Woking patients, the one thing they all mentioned is that the nursing staff at this clinic is incredibly supportive and empathetic. Surrey-based patients often consider travelling to London, where they have more clinics to choose from, for their IVF treatment, but those who decided to stay closer to home in choosing the Victoria Wing found that this clinic was much more than a geographically convenient choice.
CARE Tunbridge Wells
The CARE fertility group is, with 15 clinics across Britain and Ireland, one of the largest and most experienced fertility groups in the region. The CARE Tunbridge Wells clinic in Kent provides a broad range of treatments — you can be treated here if you need fertility preservation, surgical sperm collection, are hoping to participate in an egg sharing programme, or are a candidate for natural IVF. Multi-cycle discounts are available, along with an IVF refund programme. Potential patients may visit the clinic without committing to it, so you can get a better impression before you book your initial consultation. CARE Tunbridge Wells Patients can have as many counselling sessions as they need at no additional cost.
CARE is one of the best fertility groups to consider if you have additional needs:
- CAREmaps is a time-lapse imaging technique that enables the selection of the best possible embryo without genetic testing.
- Pre-implantation genetic screening is also available at CARE, along with EmbryoGen and BlastGen, EmbryoGlue, and an endometrial scratch — interventions that make pregnancy more likely for certain patients.
Let's also take a look at the live births per embryo transfer for fresh IVF/ICSI cycles with patients' own eggs by age group:
- Age 35-37: 42 per cent
- Age 38-39: 25 per cent
- Age 40-42: 20 per cent
What are the unique advantages of the CARE model? CARE clinic director at CARE Manchester and former HFEA Chief Inspector Debra Bloor believed in CARE so much that she decided to give her former role up to work for CARE — something that says a lot, we at SteadyHealth believe. With procedures streamlined across all clinics, Bloor explained, CARE patients benefit from the clinic group's always ongoing scientific research, resulting in evidence-based changes which CARE can implement immediately as their scientific merit comes to light.
In addition, Bloor told us, CARE employs full time fertility specialists, rather than gynaecologists and obstetricians who work in the field of fertility. Thanks to this decision, a fertility specialist is always in the building, for you to depend on when you need them. "Their focus also means they keep up to date with latest medical practice in fertility," Bloor told us. Read more about CARE Fertility's unique advantages in our interview with Debra Bloor.
CARE's flexible opening hours are another bonus you can benefit from when deciding to be treated at CARE Tunbridge Wells. CARE treats patients with a BMI of up to 35 — a limit that applies to men only if they need surgical sperm collection. You are welcome as a female CARE patient until age 53, though the team may advise you to attempt treatment with donor eggs if you are 43 or older.
One former CARE Tunbridge Wells patient described the clinic as small enough to provide truly personal care, and the staff as patient enough to take the time to answer even the "dumbest questions I asked". The nursing staff were diligent in teaching her how to navigate self-injecting and made sure she knew everything she needed to know.
Part of the Fertility Partnership, Oxford Fertility has been licenced since 1992. Besides IVF and ICSI, the clinic performs surgical sperm collection, fertility preservation, in vitro maturation, and treats patients with with communicable viral infections. The fact that the clinic offers sperm sharing in addition to egg sharing is notable. The staff at Oxford Fertility knows how stressful fertility treatment can be, and encourages patients to attend counselling, not just “when things go wrong”, but whenever you feel you could benefit. The first session is provided at no cost.
Other options provided at Oxford Fertility are:
- Pre-implantation genetic screening
- Blastocyst culture
- An endometrial scratch
- Assisted hatching
- A range of tests, such as the endometrial receptivity array test, to help those patients who’ve been through implantation failure in the past.
Shall we break the live birth per embryo transfer rate for fresh IVF/ICSI down by age again?
- Age 35-37: 29 per cent
- Age 38-39: 26 per cent
- Age 40-42: 14 per cent
One former patient who had also previously been treated elsewhere commented that her egg collection procedure was pain-free at Oxford Fertility, whereas it had been "excruciating" at her previous clinic. The staff were caring, compassionate, and immediately responded to phone calls, she said.
Complete Fertility Centre Southampton
Part of the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, the Complete Fertility Centre Southampton is a medium-sized clinic that offers fertility preservation, IVF, and ICSI. Also of note on its spectrum of possibilities are the SpermComet DNA test, EmbryoScope, blastocyst transfer, and endometrial scratch, along with mild IVF, which gives you the chance to have “lighter, shorter and much less stressful hormone treatments that deliver optimal conception rates”. A mobile app is, interestingly, available to keep patients up to date on their treatment. Six free counselling sessions are provided. The fact that the clinic is incredibly supportive of single and queer people seeking IVF makes it a clinic of choice for you if you're single or lesbian. The clinic recruits egg and sperm donors, allows you to have treatment with a donor you know, and offers egg-sharing for suitable candidates.
By age group, these cycles have the following live births per embryo success rates:
- Age 35-37: 26 per cent
- Age 38-39: 15 per cent
- Age 40-42: 27 per cent
The Complete Fertility Centre Southampton likewise started 167 frozen IVF/ICSI cycles with patients’ own eggs, of which 165 reached embryo transfer. These cycles resulted in an impressive live births per embryo transfer rate of 38 percent, compared to a national average of 29 per cent.
The Complete Fertility Centre Southampton's Helen Kennard told SteadyHealth that patients looking for "research-based, compassionate, patient-centric and individualised first class care and state-of-the-art facilities staffed by a highly experienced, multi-disciplinary team" are at the right place at this clinic. What's more, she emphasised the fact that Complete Fertility Centre patients have the benefit of full transparency:
"Our fixed price competitive fertility treatment packages allow patients to receive first class treatment without the worry of any hidden costs."
If you're a privately-funding IVF patient, you can have IVF with your own eggs up to age 43, and with donor eggs until age 50. Your body mass index has to be below 35, which is higher than the BMI limit of 30 that some clinics have.
Two former Complete patients' comments confirmed what Kennard told us — one said that the nursing team, with whom you have most contact whilst undergoing treatment, were cheerful and kind, and that her privately-funded treatment unfolded very quickly without any waiting list. Another, who opted to participate in egg-sharing, particularly appreciated the fact that this was able to bring the cost of her private treatment down and said that she felt very well-informed throughout her treatment, with little need to ask questions herself because the clinic's staff made sure she understood everything.
HFEA-licenced since 1992, the Southampton-based Wessex Fertility is a highly experienced fertility clinic that offers a broad range of treatments. With satellite clinics in Portsmouth, Basingstoke, Poole and Guernsey, patients in these areas have the benefit of being able to choose to have the majority of their appointments closer to home.
Wessex Fertility patients have access to egg sharing and surgical sperm collection as well as pre-implantation genetic screening, the endometrial array receptivity test, assisted hatching, EmbryoGlue, and blastocyst culture. The fact that EmbryoScope embryo monitoring and a counselling session with a specialist counsellor are routinely included in each IVF cycle is a huge plus, and you'll also want to know that mild IVF cycles are available at this clinic.
Breaking the figures down by age range, Wessex Fertility had the following live birth per embryo transfer success rates in this category:
- Age 35-37: 32 per cent
- Age 38-39: 20 per cent
- Age 40-42: 11 per cent
As for frozen cycles with patients’ own eggs, 229 were started and 225 made it to embryo transfer. This resulted in a live birth per transfer rate which, at 33 per cent, exceeds the national average of 29 per cent.
In speaking to SteadyHealth, Wessex Fertility's Jess Denham conveyed pride in the clinic's "skilled and experienced team who have helped create over 3500 babies" through their "consultant-led model". The fact that Wessex Fertility is "part of the Fertility Partnership, the largest group of fertility clinics in the UK, enables shared knowledge, research, and skills across some of the most successful clinics in the UK".
Not only can you expect scientific excellence at Wessex Fertility, Denham made it clear that you'll receive IVF treatment in a "very friendly atmosphere, where patients feel like individuals and not numbers". If you're considering becoming a Wessex Fertility patient, you should know, she told us, that:
- All scans are performed by a doctor or specialist sonographer.
- Wessex Fertility has a dedicated team for its successful donor and surrogacy programme.
- The clinic is able to assess fertility in just two hours with a "Rapid Fertility Assessment".
- Wessex Fertility has links with Access Fertility, who provide IVF refund programmes.
- Wessex Fertility performs IVF cycles with patients' own eggs up to age 44, and with donor eggs up to age 50.
- You can be treated at Wessex Fertility if your BMI is between 18 and 35.
One patient said that the clinic was careful to present her with a very realistic picture of her chances for success, but were happy to work with her wishes in transferring a "weaker embryo". This leaves us with the impression that individual patients are more important to Wessex Fertility than their wish to "look good on paper" and reflects what Denham told us about patients not feeling like numbers.
Thames Valley Fertility
As we explained before, our aim is to provide you with a list of the best fertility clinics in the South East England region — based on the services a clinic offers, its HFEA inspection rating, the "feel" of the clinic, and of course its success rates. As a new clinic, no HFEA success rates are as yet available for Thames Valley Fertility. We chose to include Thames Valley Fertility for several reasons; it is part of a reputable group, the Fertility Partnership, and it was important to us that our list provide geographical variety. Thames Valley Fertility is located in Maidenhead in Berkshire, and for Berkshire patients, it will certainly be more conveniently situated than some of the other clinics on our list.
Its range of services is quite extraordinary: IVF and ICSI of course, but also surgical sperm collection, fertility preservation, and IVF for patients with communicable viral infections. Thames Valley Fertility likewise offers pre-implantation genetic screening and diagnosis, Embryoscope, an endometrial scratch, the endometrial receptivity array test, and assisted hatching. Its sperm DNA fragmentation test makes it a clinic of choice for couples facing male-factor infertility.
Sussex Downs Fertility Centre: The Esperance Hospital
Based in Eastbourne, the Sussex Downs Fertility Centre has been HFEA-licenced since 1992 and is part of BMI Healthcare, a private healthcare provider that started with the famous Harley Street Clinic. BMI The Esperance Hospital provides a broad range of healthcare services, including hernia repair and cataract removal, in addition to offering IVF, ICSI, and surgical sperm collection. The Sussex Downs Fertility Centre does not, it informed us, have waiting lists once you have had your initial consultation. Since their consultants also work for the NHS, however, you may have to wait a few weeks for that first appointment — especially if you wish to choose a particular doctor, which is possible at this clinic. The BMI group works with patients who have a body mass index of up to 40.
Broken down by age group, their fresh IVF/ICSI cycles with patient's own eggs have the following live birth per embryo transfer success rates:
- Age 35-37: 25 per cent
- Age 38-39: 29 per cent
- Age 40-42: 13 per cent
Frozen embryo cycles (again, patients’ own eggs) were similarly successful, with a live birth per embryo transfer rate of 36 per cent, compared to a national average of 29 per cent. There were only 89 of these cycles, however, of which 84 made it to the transfer stage.
If your first point of contact with the Sussex Downs Fertility Centre at the Esperance is their website, which is more than a little bare-bones in terms of the information it provides about fertility treatments at the clinic, you may feel slightly confused. We reviewed online comments from patients who have been treated at the clinic however, and their experiences with the staff are a mixture of positive and negative.