A DORSET couple are blaming NHS red tape for halving their chances of conceiving a much-wanted baby.

Natalie and Stuart Cranston from Poole were first referred to the infertility service at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital in 2007.

They say they were promised two courses of IVF, but have been told they can only have one because of a change in policy.

Women patients now have to be referred to the service before their 35th birthday and complete treatment before they reach 37.

Hairdresser Natalie, 38, said: “It’s incredibly unfair that couples who have been in the system for a long time waiting for their IVF to start are being let down.

“I understand that funding is an issue and tough decisions have to be made, but they should not be applied to couples who are already on the waiting list.”

Stuart said: “We feel we have been messed around by the NHS for a long time and now we’re devastated to learn that our chances of conceiving via IVF have effectively been halved.

“We desperately want a child, we’ve been told our chances of having a baby through IVF are high and we’ve endured a slow medical system only to be let down when we reach the final hurdle.

“We’ve never been told this in writing – we found out after ringing the hospital about an appointment.”

The couple, who run the Salon 1336 chain, claim valuable time was wasted at the RBH because of misdiagnosis.

They switched to Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester, but borrowed money to fund private IVF treatment after learning of an 18-week waiting list.

Although the treatment worked, Natalie sadly miscarried. “It means the world to us to have a child together. We understand the limitations of the NHS but feel incredibly let down,” she said.

A spokeswoman for NHS Bournemouth and Poole said: “The fertility and assisted conception policy was updated following a robust public consultation process.

“We recognise that the updated policy will affect some couples and have implemented transition arrangements to help with this depending on their individual circumstances.

“We understand that this is an emotive subject and have worked closely with couples as well as making the policy information available through the local hospitals and GPs to provide guidance.”