When fertility treatment becomes a numbers game

By Nina Steele 

One thing that struck me while going through fertility treatment, was the seemingly unsympathetic attitude of the medical staff. There is a certain blasé attitude that I found rather unsettling at times. I suppose people might find the same attitude when they visit their GP surgery. It is the attitude that says ‘we are very busy and the quicker we deal with you the better’. As a free service I suppose most people are willing to put up with it within the NHS but not when one is paying privately for a service. The idea of going private is that one expects to be treated far better than one would using the NHS and I am afraid I didn’t find that to be the case.

Indeed, the impression I had was that we were just a number and nothing more. For example when I left a message to say that we had decided we were no longer going to try for a child, I was hoping that someone would ring back to offer us some much needed support. Unfortunately no one ever bothered to get in touch. That was quite telling I thought. The medical team at the clinic could see from our records that we had been trying for quite some time with all the psychological implications, yet no one bothered to make contact. One incident helped reinforce this idea that patients are not really that important to these people other than for the fact that they pay for their treatments.

I had a fallopian tube test, which turned out to be one of the most painful procedures I ever had to go through. I was in complete agony and my husband was there with me to offer his support. We were so caught up in the whole process that we didn’t see the time passing. We had driven to the hospital and realised too late that the two hour parking ticket we had displayed on the car was about to expire and so my husband rushed to the car and was about 5 minutes late, only to find the parking attendant issuing us with a ticket. My husband did his best to explain why he was late to no avail. I remember telling the receptionist at the clinic about the incident while we were paying our fee and to my total amazement, she said absolutely nothing. No word of support, nothing. She just stood there took the money and that was it.

The same ‘we do not care much for you except for your ability to pay’ attitude was present throughout the whole time we went private. I never felt that we were anything more than just a number. Considering the emotional turmoil involved in the whole process, I was appalled at this insensitive approach to patients. You would think that going private would give you that extra edge, however if our experience is anything to go by, private treatment is nothing special.


  1. GemmaRowlands says

    It’s very sad, but there is a lot of truth in the thought that we are numbers through our whole lives. In fact, there are very few places indeed where we are actually classed as people in our own right. I think it’s important to remember that the people at these clinics are simply doing their jobs, and although you might be treated like a number, it may actually help you in long term. Stay strong, and keep your focus on the potential end result.

    • Julez Fitzmond says

      Too right, we’re numbers everywhere. But when it’s a situation that feels so personal to us, it can feel even more heartbreaking to know that the people who we are relying on to change our lives only see us as a very small part of their 9 to 5 routine. But focusing on what you want to get out of the process is helpful, and it will definitely make a difference.

  2. Hi Gemma, yes the people at the clinic are indeed doing their job and I am sure that most of them try to do the best that they can. What I object to however is when the system becomes so rigid and preoccupied with targets that the humanity goes out of the window. Those going through fertility treatment are often in a fragile emotional state and showing them a bit of empathy can help.

  3. It must be heartbreaking to go through things like this only to feel as though you don’t really matter to the only people who are able to help you. But once you understand that they can’t possibly get involved in each individual case, you should be able to focus on your aims without being too disheartened. And anyway – the best staff are able to make all of their patients feel important, regardless of how busy they might be.

  4. Julez Fitzmond says

    It can be a bit scary not only from this perspective, but also when you start to look at the statistics about how many cases are successful and how many are not. And then you start to consider how many chances you’ve had, how many have failed, then you are stressed – which doesn’t help the process anyway! It’s a horrible thing to have to go through, but it helps if there are good and professional staff who can help you through it.

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