Sharon works for Infertility Network UK as Regional Organiser for Northern Ireland, we're delighted that she has been named as the winner of the Consumer Action Award
Sharon Davidson who runs a campaign called 'Improving access to NHS infertility treatment in N. Ireland'. According to Sharon, there is a postcode lottery relating to NHS fertility treatment.
For example, patients living in Scotland can access three fertility treatment cycles while patients in Northern Ireland can access only one part treatment cycle. The National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC), led by Infertility Network UK, has been calling for improvements in fertility services since 1994. Sharon is lobbying for three NHS treatment cycles to be available for patients in Northern Ireland.
Sharon Davidson, winner of the Consumer Action Award said:
"As a campaigner it's a great pleasure to win the prestigious Sheila McKechnie Foundation Consumer Action Award. Attending the awards ceremony in London yesterday was so inspiring and has given me renewed motivation.
"Working for the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC), led by Infertility Network, I will continue to fight for equality of access to NHS funded fertility treatment.
"Only one NHS fertility treatment cycle is available in Northern Ireland, whereas patients in Scotland can largely access three NHS treatment cycles.
I want to end the postcode lottery and help patients find their voice".
Linda Butcher, Chief Executive of SMK said:
"During this time of socio-economic instability it is incredibly positive to see such a wide range of campaigners working tirelessly to tackle the wrongs, abuses, injustices and inequalities in society. These inspiring and tenacious individuals prove that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. We are proud to be providing support for our award winners' next steps and we look forward to working with them to make a more just and equal society."
Sharon shares about why she campaigns...
I got involved in the campaign to improve fertility treatment in N. Ireland mainly due to the fact that I suffer from infertility. In 1998, I co-founded an infertility support group in Belfast, N. Ireland called Stork. At that time, an existing patient support group had just disbanded.
I found myself in a café with one other member one evening. I realised that I had a choice of either trying to ressurrect a new group or suffer in silence with no peer support. I decided on the former and my friend and I started to put “Stork “ together. We imaged a Stork one day bringing us both the baby we dreamed of having in our arms.
We successfully lobbied the local NHS fertility clinic to fund premises for a monthly meeting of the group. Soon there were 4 of us , then 8 and upwards. I worked full time in a managerial position and ran the group voluntarily. The personal stress of undergoing fertility treatments took its toll, both physically and mentally and I found myself needing counselling and a lot of peer support (received through the Stork Group). Although finance for more treatments was needed I started to work part time to help me cope.
After 5 long years and 6 gruelling attempts of fertility treatments I became pregnant. The overwhelming joy following the birth of my son prompted me to think of others struggling to concieve.
The continued growth of the Stork group encouraged me to consider linking more formally with Infertility Network UK (I N UK). I lobbied the Health & Social Care Trust for over a year before they agreed to provide financial support. I then applied for a part time role in the charity and I was successful as Regional Organiser for N. Ireland.
In Scotland patients can avail of up to 3 IVF treatment cycles. In Wales - up to 2 cycles, in England -between 0 and 3 treament cycles and in N. Ireland -1 part cycle.
I want to change the discrepancies that still exist in N. Ireland. Patients have to pay for the transfer of frozen embryos should their fresh cycle be unsuccessful.
It is morally unjust to create embryos on the NHS and expect patients to pay for the transfer privately, cost approx. £1000. In N. Ireland NHS Patients who are unsuccessful, with no frozen embryos, have to find £4-£5000 for private treatment.
The campaign plan in N. Ireland is to:
•Build a good working relationship with key stakeholders.
•Meet members of the Local Assembly and encourage patients to write to them
•Make best use of any press and media contacts.
We need to highlight the campaign to the Minister for Health in N. Ireland to motivate him to put more financial resources into treatment and the Fertility Commissioners so that they will encourage the best use of existing resources.